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Durham University and IBM to sign Memorandum of Understanding to further develop research and recruitment collaboration

(3 May 2013)

Simon Pendlebury and Andrew Deeks

Durham University deepened its relationship with IBM to further shared research, teaching and recruitment aims by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the multinational corporation on Thursday May 2. It is one of only fourteen strategic partnerships between IBM and UK universities.

The two institutions’ shared values in terms of attaining the highest levels of excellence in education and research and a common culture of innovation have led to the creation of this formal framework for their ongoing working relationships.

The MoU will enable ongoing, broad engagement between the University and IBM, characterised by links at different levels across both organisations and multi-disciplinary interaction across research, teaching & learning, student experience and employability and also public engagement. The areas of specialised research will include high performance computing, Smarter Cities (the innovative use of city data to deliver sustainable and high quality of life), digital humanities (intersection of computing with humanities topics) and big data analytics (extracting knowledge from the analysis of large complex datasets).

Professor Andrew Deeks, Durham University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Science), said: 

“As a UK top 5 and World top 100 university, partnerships such as this MoU ensure our research is relevant to the needs of industry and has significant impact, and also present opportunities for our students to gain additional skills through engagement with multi-national companies. We are particularly happy to be working with IBM in this manner, as their forward-thinking approach to identifying and solving the future problems and needs of society fits well with our own multi-disciplinary approach to addressing global problems.”

Simon Pendlebury, European Vice President of Storage, IBM Systems and Technology Group, said:

"The new agreement builds on an already successful relationship between IBM and Durham University. The significant overlap between IBM's Smarter Planet initiative and Durham University's broad research interests should give rise to numerous opportunities for collaboration and the development of areas of common interest such as high performance computing. The arrangement also includes support for teaching and learning in the University, support for the University's Corporate Social Responsibility program and should further enhance IBM's profile as a graduate employer so that IBM can benefit from the strong talent which is developed by the University." 

Durham University and IBM have a relationship going back many years; for example, IBM has supplied equipment for and supported the fourth and fifth generations of the high performance computing facility known as the “Cosmology Machine”. This exceptional facility at the Institute for Computational Cosmology, in the Dept of Physics is managed by Dr Lydia Heck and used by leading international researchers, including Durham’s Prof Carlos Frenk, to simulate the evolution of the universe and its galaxies and explore theories of Dark Matter.

In Sept 2011, IBM approached Durham University to explore new ways of pro-actively engaging in student recruitment. Initial discussions quickly identified that there were many other areas in research, teaching & learning and public engagement where a strategic partnership would be mutually beneficial. This naturally led to the rapid growth of the relationship and the decision by both parties to formally recognise the strategic partnership.

Dr Jennifer Thompson, Durham University’s Head of Business Engagement, said:

“We are also delighted to have two Durham students accepted onto IBM’s Extreme Blue summer internship program this year, one from Physics and one from Business Management. This continues the strong track record of success for Durham students on the program, which is highly competitive with only 16 places available each year. Additionally, we have four Durham University computer scientists heading to IBM’s Winchester laboratory for software development internships this summer. The IBM Research Centre in Dublin has also hosted two visits of academic researchers from the University over the last six months.

“We are elated by these developments and very much looking forward to taking our research and teaching collaborations in new directions in the future.”

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