IBM Corp. lays claim to one of the world�s most well-funded, productive research and development organizations, with eight laboratories around the world. One of the most fabled is the Zurich Research Laboratory, which sits nestled in the picturesque hills overlooking Lake Zurich, the Swiss Alps towering in the distance. The lab is home to back-to-back Nobel Prizes: the scanning tunneling microscope (Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer) in 1986 and high temperature superconductivity (Georg Bednorz and Karl Alex Mueller) in 1987. Krishna Nathan took charge of the lab on 1 August 2002, following research work in pattern recognition and two executive positions at IBM. IEEE Spectrum senior associate editor Harry Goldstein went to Zurich to speak with him on 4 February about the changing nature of research at IBM.

How has research evolved at IBM, and how is the company refocusing R and D today?

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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