Posts Tagged ‘technology’


deutsche Frauen in der Technik

Tuesday 28 January, 2014

I checked out this event last month “Engaging Women in STEM: Perspectives from the United States and Germany,” which was sponsored by the German Center for Research & Innovation in the German consulate just across from the UN in New York. Apparently they are streaming this as long as it stays up, so I’ll just provide highlights here.

The bottom line benefit to women getting involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is that women think differently, & these disciplines could use new lines of thought.  We need disruptive ideas & more of those come from more diversity, just as we need to do a better job of translating basic research into better applied research, & then developing that into market-ready products.

Despite the Apollo effect of Kennedy’s increase in NASA’s budget resulting in more PhD’s, mostly men, it’s telling, & perhaps disappointing, that the 1st woman in space came from the USSR.

Germany’s German Aerospace Center (DLR) is the German equivalent of America’s NASA, plus energy, transport, & security.  It has a budget of 1.8B € for 32 institutes on 16 sites.  They’ve provided equal opportunities for women for the last 10 years, in which women have taken 30% of all positions, & a division to keep watch over this since 2008, & a Chief Diversity Officer who sits on the Board of Directors.

BrainGate2 was cited as a good example.

In addition to commonly-accepted mentoring by senior leaders of aspiring junior level employees, perhaps we should consider reversing the hierarchy & have juniors mentor the seniors on new technologies with which they are more familiar.

Many things are changing which should encourage women to get more involved in STEM, such as changing demographics, traditional gender roles, reconciling work & home life, a skilled worker shortage, increasing cultural diversity, & last but not least, legislation.  The potential benefits of changes in policy are increased opportunities for women, employers being viewed as more attractive workplaces, & organizations simply becoming more creative.  Structure follows strategy, so a key is changing the mindset to balance reality with innovation.  Women are underrepresented in STEM for societal, individual, & organizational reasons.  There are implementation, responsibility, & cultural issues.  Vicious circles which enforce unwritten laws or codes from dominant insiders conspire to keep women down.  Commitment to change & including all stakeholders are critical success factors.

Women have a great societal impact on engineering.  Their diversity leads to increased creativity, which encourages innovation.  Role models, mentoring, networking, non-profit associations, & starting early all encourage women in this direction.  i2e or innovation, invention, & entrepreneurship should keep students from getting distracted.  The Urban Assembly is a good example of an organization which has promoted women in this area. (The CEO of my 1st employer Xerox, Ursala Burns, is a graduate of Brooklyn Poly) The bottom line is we must change the mindset of society to make a change in this direction.

Panel Q&A

A girls-only robotics lab reached the same results as boys, but with a different approach.  Girls ask “why?”, while the boys simply break it down or destroy it to understand it.

Open Q&A

There is no magic formula, although the necessity is clear.  We need an Artemis effect for women, just as we had an Apollo effect for men.

60% of medical students are female.  German women are successful in civil engineering, but no women sit on the board of DLR.  Although other women were offered the opportunity, the panel still consisted of 2 men & 1 woman.

Women in STEM is similar to women in finance.  Families must be made compatible with work.  Women with children should no longer be stigmatized.  We need an attitudinal shift.  STEM participation is too low for both men & women.  Secondary education must be revamped.

We had this same discussion in 1978.  Women drop out of these areas early.  We need to be honest with ourselves.

Does society really value STEM?  We need to change child care so that women can come back to their jobs.  Change will come when men care for their kids.  Daughters need to ask “What can I do with technology?”  There are many piecemeal solutions @ the policy level.


check czech tech

Tuesday 21 January, 2014

Last month I attended this event hosted by Czech Invest: Transatlantic Technology Transfer.  6 organizations made presentations, which are highlighted here:

  1. Central European Institute of Technology is an EU funded project/Center of Excellence which focuses on material & life sciences & advanced materials.  It’s comprised of 6 partners, 4 universities & 2 research institutes.  They pursue 6 research programs with 557 researchers in 61 research groups.  They have 9 core facilities funded with a 210M € budget.  It was founded in 2011 & scheduled to end in 2015.  Other foreign partners include VIB, EMBC, Imperial College-London, CTH-Zurich, TU-Wien, & AIT.  They want to attract US students & have taken on 14 new PhD students since 2013.
  2. was founded as an optics company in 1933 & recently opened a high-end clean room assembly & distribution facility on Long Island, & is now 90% privately held.  Most of the manufacturing is done in the Czech Republic.  They produce 850 optical & mechanical products for industrial & military applications & sports optics, such as products for aviation, semiconductors, digital projectors, binoculars, & riflescopes.  Their Czech R&D center for product engineering houses 75 scientists, 2/3 of which have PhD’s.  Their best current opportunity is with the DSIA-Defense & Security Industry Association of the Czech Republic.
  3. Cambridge Innovation Center is expanding to St. Louis, Missouri because they think that is the location with the most potential upside.
  4. Massachusetts Global Partners actually complements the Cambridge Innovation Center with their Enter Mass.-Supercluster Program.  They train/mentor/coach firms on GoToMarket strategies, technology transfer, & matchmaking. Their Czech Accelerator program offers 6 month sessions for 3 companies/session.  These started in July, 2011, so they are now in session #5.  Oscar Tech, CNS, Cathedral Software, & have come out of this program.
  5. Oscar Technologies was founded in June, 2012 in the Czech Accelerator & has expanded to Silicon Valley.  Their prototype tablet for the elderly was completed in May, 2013.  It has a meal calendar & other programs useful for the aged, & allows them to be managed remotely in Google Play.  They serve customers in 3 countries with 12 employees & are looking for distribution, advisers, investors, & a senior living facility for a pilot program.
  6. Czech Wine Imports-OK, so they’re not a tech firm, but they made a welcomed contribution to the evening’s festivities.  They feature Moravian wines from 45K acres, which produce 60M gallons.  They’ve won 78 medals & earned 25 of the top 1000 wines by Klub Sommelier.

Google CEO on global technology

Wednesday 22 May, 2013

Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, together with Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, has written a book, The New Digital Age, Reshaping the future of People, Nations, & Business, about how technology is affecting global business. He was in Chicago to talk with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs about it.

He started investigating the role of technology in Iraq around Thanksgiving & found they used their mobile devices to keep up to date on how their families are doing amidst all the chaos as cameras on cell towers watch IED’s go in the ground. The technology has empowered citizens for the greater good. 5B people will be accessing the internet for the 1st time in the next 5-10 years, many of them via mobile devices. These people will be bearing witness to great changes in societies. This is epitomized by the battle between governments which want to be big brother to their citizens & citizens that use the internet to report on what governments are doing. Citizens are pressing governments to change. Mubarek turned off the internet in Egypt for 4 1/2 days but was ultimately overthrown. In Afghanistan, it was only when the Taliban took the Afghan’s phones that they fought back to retrieve them. Fisherman in coastal Asia use SMS messages to keep their fish fresh in the water. Schoolgirls use Google maps to avoid bandits on the way to school. North Korea is the worst example of lack of a technology strategy. They have crossing guards on large boulevards with no cars as well as no conception of YouTube or even the internet.

Talk of technology policy results in silo’d conversations. China & the US are ostensibly allies in the physical world, while virtual enemies in the online world. Google Earth in Iran happens to depict the Middle East with no Israel.

The 1st shots of war will be shot in cyberspace in the future. There will be more munitions & noise, but fewer deaths.

Terrorists have leveraged technology in the past, but access to the internet also gives extremists reasons to doubt their leaders too. If we had the internet 20 years ago, perhaps we could have avoided the genocides in Rwanda.

Living life online will have implications even before some children are born.  Women in Saudi Arabia have been endangered by information that has been posted online.  A girl was killed as an honor killing because of what she submitted in an online chat session.

China is the world’s biggest computer hacker-we should assume this is a permanent state.  It’s important to realize that most technology infrastructure is not yet built:  the question becomes “Will that look more like the US or China?”  Thankfully American values are embedded in the internet.

In Myanmar/Burma, mobile communications is fueling a democracy, while the internet doesn’t work there.  It felt like East Germany after the wall fell, but there are no incentives for those in power to give up power.  They’re considering a bill to limit press freedom.  The constitution guarantees 25% of the seats in government to the military, which has little tolerance for the 35% of the population that are minorities.

Cell phones contributing to the media leads to more citizen journalism.  The traditional media will continue its role of verification & analysis, & perhaps help figure out which Twitter feeds to trust (& get over America’s obsession with celebrities).


Personal privacy is still protected on the internet because we can’t lose that trust, no human sees private data, & there are incentives for companies to protect data.

Technology can lead to reductions in unemployment with improvements in education.  The next 5B internet users will be using smart phones to access information which should lead to improvements in their critical thinking.

Google has not become too big & powerful because it was founded on strong principles & that culture will not change.

Unfortunately there is no systematic way to deal with author’s rights.  Books published before 1920 are OK.  50% of the sales of their book are digital & 50% are in hardcopy.

Schmidt defended former Google employee/present Yahoo President Marisa Miller’s edict to ban working from home.  Virtual halogen images of people simply do not get the same results or output as when people work physically together.

Teachers are actually becoming more important along with the digitization of education rather than less, so the human element is not being lost in digitization.  Students are learning to make fact-based arguments rather than emotionally-based ones.  In the 30 countries that they visited, they saw a number of educational disasters, but we need to focus on education to compete with Asians.

Digital architecture & infrastructure is changing as data moves to the cloud & access is enabled through handhelds & tablets.


local techies woo government officials

Wednesday 12 October, 2011

The Confederation of Indian Industry & Vizag Information Technology Association hosted an event entitled IT Industry in tier II cities:  Prospects & Challenges, which featured many of the local resident politicians who have a say over what local resources can be dedicated to entrepreneurship, technology etc. The purpose of the event was ultimately to lobby for their support.
Information technologies industries have grown 20%/year for the last 10 years in India. As a major port city, Vizag is a logistics hub.
B. Chandra, Secretary, ITsAP & CenterHead-CA Hyderabad,  explained how growth comes about as a result of collaboration. Intergraph was the 1st IT company in Hyderabad, the biggest city in the state of Andre Pradhesh, in 1985-86. Vizag is approaching Hydrabad’s tipping point. $45B of India’s $60B IT market is exported. Each job in IT employment creates 4 more jobs. There is a multiplier for 3X for each rupee invested in IT. In Hydrabad, there is no poaching of employees because Team Hydrabad talks about it. The challenge of a tier II city like Vizag is attracting talent.
Kona Sasidhar, of the Vizag Development Authority promised to provide infrastructure & is opening an investment room.
Ahmed Nadeem noted that power & electricity affect the power of organizations, so they are doubling the substation in Rushikonda, (which is where my school GITAM is located) & also the Rushikonda tech park. They want growth in non-migratory jobs.
Dr. C. Sreedar, Executive Director of APIIC, Ltd. endorsed building IT City, but encourages an innovation center in the center of town.
Shiv Kumar provided the industry view of improving IT in Vizag:

  • The city needs to support existing companies, & not just attract new ones.
  • Part of the way to do this is by improving HR, training, & hiring incentives by creating a common training facility which offers industrial training incentives of 25-50K rupees ($500-$1K) to hired employees to complement the local Job Knowledge Center.
  • A bandwidth subsidy would enable more cloud computing & kickstart WIFI city.
  • A licensing subsidy with toned-down enforcement would provide an alternative to the cloud.
  • A tax holiday for non-Special Economic Zone companies would level the playing field.
  • Power cost reductions would help all companies.
  • Marketing support programs which provide financial assistance towards travel & hotels for overseas trade fairs would help.
  • An innovation & incubation center that mirrors Kakinda would be welcomed.
  • Abolishing the VAT & service taxes on software would cut costs.
  • Vizag needs a promotional video.
  • To attract new companies, the city must:
  • Provide better infrastructure
  • Create a better lifestyle

Lav Agarwal, the Vizag Collector & district Magistrate, a powerful position in local government, observed that Vizag is on the threshold of where Hyderabad was 10 years ago. The government’s challenge is implementation. To create a full ecosystem, IT needs connectivity (which is available), power (which is supposedly the best in the country), infrastructure, & human resources. 3k ft2 are available for an incubation center. The video is under development. This isn’t just about land deals-it requires sound business ideas. Vizag has supply issues with drinkable water. The government is partnering with employers to provide housing. More bus frequency is coming. Make a proposal & they’ll consider it.
Peter Schneeburger, CEO of VITA, gave a quick history of IT in Vizag. 1st , big investments by MNC’s need to be championed by government. IT exports are rising 20%/year. In 2000, there were 50 SME IT companies, but the internet bubble burst them. in 2002, miracle software was the 1st to locate outside of the city. VITA was established in 2003, the same year HSBC came to town. Wipro came in 2005 supposedly to do world-class software development. Kanaxa & Symbiosis won product awards in 2008. By 2010, we noticed that there is a brain drain to Hydrabad & Bangalore & there is not world-class infrastructure in Vizag yet.
The Vision 2015 plan envisions employing 10K people in IT directly & 15K indirectly. Anchors would be HSBC, Kenexa, IBM, Satyam, Sutherland. SWOT analysis reveals that strengths in Vizag are it’s location, lifestyle, infrastructure, & skill level. All this requires vision & a common goal. It needs to be positioned in high-tech R&D & low-cost BPO. The goal is to create a $1B industry, create 1-1.5K jobs/year, 40-50 new patents/year, & 1 product company with $20M in revenues.
Sanjay JaJu, Secretary, IT&C Dept., Govt of Andhra Pradesh, admitted that Vizag is his 2nd home. His job is to bring stakeholders together to grow. Andrah Pradhesh is #4 in IT in India. Issues were raised about infrastructure, but the real issue is human resources, which are required for new business models. Space is not a problem. An investment center would be helpful. Special Economic Zones attract investment. IT is being declared essential services. Vizag is an industrial town, where there is a huge domestic spend too. Companies move because of cost arbitrage, which is why companies are moving to the Philippines & VietNam. Vizag needs to exploit these opportunities.


chicago innovation leaders speak

Friday 5 November, 2010

I attended this panel discussion organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY:  THE PATH TO MARKET LEADER

Farhah Yasin, COO-Intl @ Groupon, led off with 2 concepts:

  1. innovation is an iterative process on the internet, which means you need to act quickly on information that comes in
  2. you don’t have to build a new car to be innovative, i.e. traditional businesses are coming online in innovative ways

Patrick Whitney, dean of the Institute of Design @ Illinois Institute of Technology, noted that design is embedded in the process of innovation.  Apple extracted the joy of listening to music from basic .mp3 players.  Design brings user insight into the process & extracts problem-solving beyond just the scope of a product.  He used a low-technology example from India.  They introduced small refrigerators they thought would serve 80% of the market, but there was pushback from women because it contained no freezer.  The manufacturer camped out with the women to learn about their habits, & created new franchises so that they could share in a new & better solution.

Larry Keeley, of Doblin, Inc. & the Monitor Group, made 3 points

  1. innovation today is all about giving up your secrets, which now can be taught to anybody
  2. great cities should have a mission for innovation with discipline & without waiting for lightning to strike as much as companies are conscious of fostering innovation
  3. Chicago has a great innovative history which shouldn’t be taken for granted.  (“Maybe we should burn down the city every 100 years to start anew”).

panel Q&A

Keeley suggested government needs to create “points of view” for a transformation in innovation & a better ecosystem.  Yasin posited that government should get behind business with tax incentives.  Whitney questioned whether or not government should play any role in innovation-the relationships between educational institutions & business may be more important.

Yasin said that gathering the right data was more important than intuition in bringing products to market.  Whitney thought many companies are too data-driven, but they don’t solve the problem of unresolveable complexity.  Keeley noted that leaders recognize moments when to take action, often as a result of a nagging accumulation of evidence.  He took it even further by saying even if we execute our strategic plan perfectly, we still need to invent at least 8% new to “improve the known” (vs. the unknown).

Keeley exclaimed that government prizes create leverage of 17:1 in encouraging innovation, which Whitney endorsed.  Yasin mentioned that Google encourages its employees to devote 25% of their time to non-work.

In the next 5 years

  • Keeley sees a revolution in health care, bringing predictive & preventative care to the forefront, transformations in transportation with mobility tools, & much improved learning materials
  • Whitney predicts a decline in the faith in the web & transition to “trusted purpose networks” which will replace social networks
  • Yasin observed that a key strategy will be to go global as fast as possible because barriers to entry are now so low & gave China coming online as an example.

open Q&A

problem-solving questions to ask are:

  • Whitney-build a prototype to start learning & knowing with a focus on conjectures rather than hypothesis
  • Keeley-what are the errors of omission?
  • Yasin-what does the customer want?

Keeley said innovation has gone global, which has impacted the economics of innovation, remarking that China has 8X as many researchers as anyplace else.  We also need not just new ideas, but velocity as well.

Keeley stated that rather than create a culture of innovation, seek competence instead.  If you innovate, the culture will take care of itself.

On corporate social responsibility:

  • Keeley said if something is proven, the Gates Foundation will fund it, as $.02 worth of folic acid in the developing world has save millions of lives
  • Whitney questioned its applicability, but suggested putting designers on M&A teams
  • Yasin advocated that innovation takes place in a top-> down fashion, so management needs to incentivize employees to create a long-term advantage.  Established companies suffer from a different problem, focusing only on profit or R&D

Missteps could be:

  • Keeley-results are not new products, rather new platforms that are self organized & user centric which are achieved by redefining boundaries & the unit of analysis
  • Whitney established 3 conditions
  1. understanding of user needs
  2. motivation (usually either fear or pain)
  3. willingness to go down an unknown path
  • Yasin-mistakes are good, & the more, the better, but remain focused on 80% of the market

The global norm is a 4 1/2% success rate.  Keeley observed that success rates can approach 35-50% & max out @ 82%.

On legal protection of innovation:

  • Keeley-worry less about protection & foster accelerated adoption instead.  Move faster & smarter.
  • Whitney-focus on systems, for example Apple dominates with features at every step
  • Yasin-we need to protect IP @ whatever necessary costs.

Canadian financial services cos. in the midwest

Tuesday 16 December, 2008

I attended this event ,  Connect2Canada: A Sound Partner for Financial Services organized by Eric Hochstein, the local representative for the Canadian province of Ontario.  He assured me the presentations & video would be put up on the website, so look there for that content.  Otherwise, here’s what I picked up:

from Georges Rioux; Counsel General in Chicago-there are 16,000 Canucks in Chicagoland, Canada is the #1 trade partner of 36 US states, trade has tripled since the inception of NAFTA, 50% of the oil which comes to the midwest is imported from Canada.

from SandraPupatello, Ontario Minister of International Trade & Investment;  Canada’s Technology Triangle (Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo) is the 3rd largest ICT cluster in North America, tax credits are now available for 60% of R&D spending, Mayor Richard Daley is invited to Toronto in Spring, 2009.

from the Financial Services Software/Technologies seminar Q&A; R&D tax credits are available on 100% of R&D done in Canada, but it’s rare for 100% of R&D to be done in 1 place, & foreign (American) companies must generate revenues in Canada against which to offset the tax credits, HR Canada ok’s workers with 2+years of experience with L1 visas to fill qualified talent pools, nearshoring to Canada offers language & skill advantages over Latin America since price is just 1 variable, & while attrition has fallen to 9-12% from 30% in India, it’s only 3-4% in London, ON.

from the Insurance Globalization seminar Q&A;  global insurance companies leverage cultural differences in spending, regulations govern collaboration wikis with regulators, web 2.0 will change relatinships with customers when the big guys reach a tipping point, & there is no global sourcing strategy so make small investments & invest wisely.

from the regional showcase;   Toronto has 40% of Canada’s companies & 10% of its GDP, Ottawa has 1800 technology companies with 80,000 employees, the University of Waterloo has the largest math faculty in the world, CNA, Northern Trust, & Synovate are Chicago examples that have opened operations in Ontario.

Picking up on my experience working @ the Canadian consulate in Chicago, Canada should be 1st on the radar of most American companies venturing outside of the US.  There is no other country which is easier, faster, & cheaper with which to do business than Canada.  The Canadian business culture is different, however not drastically so.  Canadians offer particular advantages in a number of technologies, i.e. wireless because of Research in Motion’s Blackberry, graphics/animation because of Sheridan College, & e-learning because of experience educating many people dispersed throughout a wide geographical area.  So head north, eh?