Research lab opens in Braamfontein

August 29th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT


Solomon Assefa, director IBM Research - Africa

Solomon Assefa, director IBM Research – Africa

IBM opened its second research location on the African continent at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, Johannesburg on 25 August 2016.

The two-level, 900 m2 lab has a DIY maker-space with electronic design equipment and a 3D printer. Agile work space provides a collaborative environment for IBM scientists to train and mentor Wits students and local start-ups. Developer communities across Africa will also have access, at no charge, to a LinuxONE community cloud located in Johannesburg, which acts as a virtual research and development engine for creating, testing and piloting emerging applications via the cloud. The new lab also features an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform based on OpenStack connected to IBM Storwize for efficiently provisioning 80 TB of storage for research projects.

The facility is a joint venture with the University of the Witwatersrand and the Department of Trade and Industry and Science and Technology as part of a ten-year investment programme.

The Tshimologong Precinct is the brainchild of Prof. Barry Dwolatzky, director of the JCSE. His vision is to create Braamfontein as a digital hub. The new IBM Research Lab is another step in turning his vision into reality.

IBM researchers in South Africa with backgrounds in machine learning, mathematics, computer science, robotics, genomics and computational biology, are exploring the use of cognitive computing, the internet of things and big data to support South Africa’s national priorities, drive skills development and foster innovation-based economic growth.

“South Africa is a tremendous growth and transformation story, yet its increasing population and healthcare delivery shortfalls continue to pose challenges in the country,” said Solomon Assefa, director IBM Research – Africa. “With the ability to detect patterns and discover new correlations, cognitive and cloud computing and the Internet of Things can provide potential solutions.”

The lab’s team of scientists is already collaborating extensively with local universities, research institutions, innovation centres, start-ups and government agencies. This will help foster South Africa’s emerging technology ecosystem and develop and scale new innovations.

Prof. Adam Habib, vice-chancellor and principal of Wits said that the launch of the IBM Research laboratory is an exciting milestone in the move towards a new era of globally competitive research, innovation and entrepreneurship that will be emerging out of the Tshimologong Precinct, and that Wits is delighted to be collaborating with IBM.  He said that they look forward to seeing top talent congregate to address the continent’s most intractable problems and work on the world’s next game-changing technologies.

Aligned with areas of strategic national importance, the lab’s focus areas include data-driven healthcare, digital urban ecosystems and exploration of the universe.

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