EMC Opens Research Arm in Cambridge, Joins MIT Media Lab as Sponsor

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EMC as a company tries to collaborate operationally across its business divisions—and that the new research lab is designed to enhance that with more future-oriented activities.

Masson will be the only full-time member of EMC Research Cambridge, not counting the three researchers from RSA Labs, who were previously in Bedford, MA, and are now part of the new research arm. The rest of the team, including distinguished engineers, technologists, and strategic leadership personnel from EMC’s business divisions, is mostly virtual—members have committed to devoting at least one day a month to the lab, at least virtually. However, says Masson, “Our virtual team has to be physical at times.” He notes, for instance, that the Media Lab’s sponsor week would be a great time for in-person meetings, and that, like virtually every R&D lab, the facility will host lectures or briefings for staff members, and potentially non-EMC personnel as well, to encourage people to come in.

For his part, Kaliski notes that many of the participants in the new lab likely already have responsibility for pursuing a long-term R&D vision for their business divisions. Taking part in the new research lab, he says, “is a new way of fulfilling their responsibility.”

In addition to exploring the future in technology areas such as storage, content management, security, cloud computing, and so on, the new research arm will be looking at how those technologies fit into fast-changing, information-intensive markets like health care, banking, energy, and finance. For example, “The impact of the cloud cuts across all of these elements of technology, as well as all the verticals,” Kaliski says. Other trends are mobility, collaboration or social computing, and governance, risk, and compliance , he says.

The centerpiece of the research group’s activity will be the new sponsorship arrangement with the Media Lab. “That will give us a place to go, a set of people to interact with,” says Kaliski. Initial research collaborations between the two will focus on new models for owning and using data; innovative interfaces for social and business transactions; and technologies to help consumers better manage their own health care. One specific project EMC will work with is the New Deal on Data effort that is part of Media Lab professor Sandy Pentland’s Living Labs program.

The Media Lab was also enthusiastic about the new arrangement. “By collaborating with leading technology companies like EMC, the Media Lab can invent new possibilities for creating, collecting and using information that empower users and bring a wealth of benefits to people’s digital lives and communities,” said lab associate director Andrew Lippman in a statement.

EMC Research Cambridge will also be exploring other projects at MIT, in areas such as the digital archiving of scientific research, where massive amounts of data are being accumulated, often in incompatible or hard-to-access formats, Kaliski says. In addition, the group plans to work with other universities and startups in the Boston area, he says.

At the end of the day, the lab is a beachhead for getting senior engineers, technologists, and strategists from different EMC product groups better connected to future trends and technologies, Kaliski says. If something promising comes up, he says, executives can quickly decide whether to help speed its adoption inside the company, license it, or even form a spinout company to help advance its commercialization.

Finally, Kaliski says that the Cambridge research arm could become a model for opening similar labs in other key clusters around the world. It offers, he says, a way to “leverage a strong local presence on a global level.”

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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