“If we knew what we are doing, we would not call it research” – Albert Einstein
I participated in the unveiling of a new research center in Reykjavik University called the Center for Research on Engineering Software Systems (CRESS), the focus of this center is to achieve usability, correctness, efficiency and scalability of software systems. Sounds abstract and vague like any typical research center in academia, however I am a big believer in supporting initiatives like this because Cost of research is extremely cheap in the academic environment as compared to the commercial environment. Let me qualify the statement, basic research done in universities and research centers actually cost less than if they are done by individual companies. Especially in the field of software and systems, and more so in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. This is why I don’t understand why the big pharma companies just fund large research projects within the University system and target and focus their efforts on drug discovery, maybe they do that what do I know about Pharma or Biotech, I digress… coming back to CRESS, I think this is a cool initiative and I would like to see more startups and companies in Iceland support these kinds of initiatives.
Dr. Michael J. Franklin from University of California at Berkeley gave a talk titled “Building Effective Industry/Academia Collaborations- The Berkeley Lab Model”. The talk was inspiring to me and according to him, impactful collaboration between academia and industry at UC Berkeley owes much to a unique model for research. Dr. Michael J. Franklin directs the well-known AMPLab research lab which has gained a leading role in Big Data research, producing software and knowledge that has had major impact on industry. In his talk, Dr.Franklin used AMPLab as an example to explain the Berkeley Lab model, and how it has been used to foster collaboration between industry and academic researchers.
I have written about Big Data and why I believe the mere fact of sifting through noise to get to insight in Big Data is one of the biggest challenges we have and given the nature of how we as humans are wired we see patterns in everything even tea leaves and I worry how it can be abused. There is a lot of value in trying to resolve some of the system problems that get created due to Big Data, that is where I am really interested. At GreenQloud, we see enough Big Data problems and I think most of it is created by our day to day users without knowledge of them creating it. If we can improve performance, scalability and the user experience I am all for it. Doing research in that basic paradigm is very expensive for a startup like GreenQloud, so I am all for collaborating with Universities and Research Facilities if we can get a heads up on the direction to focus. This is what Startups should be doing, they can experiment with finding the Product to Market fit, but sometimes startups and entrepreneurs from the academic area get stuck on basic research, it can be really costly and can kill the company. Dr.Franklin gave examples that their software stack that has been open sourced has been used by Twitter, Yahoo and many of the technology companies and I think that is smart.
I think this blog post has already become too long, as this is a topic that I have not written about. The gist is this if you are startup or an entrepreneur thinking about something new, try to collaborate and find out if any university or research center will be open to collaborate with you. I have written about another institute called Icelandic Institute of Intelligent Machine (IIIM). We need more of these initiatives to create a vibrant Startup Community and Ecosystem in Iceland. End of the day a number of these initiatives need funding, so if you are able to support them I really encourage you to do that because only good things come out of it. Worst come worst, you will find your next best talented engineer in some of the graduate students who work on these centers.
- Academia: U. of Virginia Launches “Big Data Institute” (starbridgepartners.com)
- GreenQloud – Because PRISM isn’t the Only Way for Non US Clouds to Differentiate (diversity.net.nz)
- New Report Shows How to Turn Big Data into Big Bucks (domo.com)
- Just Add Water: GE, Berkeley Lab Explore Possible Key to Energy Storage for Electric Vehicles (dailyfinance.com)
- Cloud Computing: Information technology’s answer to sustainability? (ecoseed.org)
- ‘Big data’ will change the way you farm (southeastfarmpress.com)