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At IBM Research, a Constant Quest for the Bleeding Edge

IBM lab on a chip

IBM Research has created a project known as 'Lab on a chip' intended to give doctors a quick and cost-efficient way to test blood samples for disease markers.

Mathias Hofstetter/Arnold. Inhal/IBM

When you think about diverse issues like river management during drought, urban traffic prediction, cocoa crop maximization, and how to win at Jeopardy, IBM might not be the first company that comes to mind.

But as unlikely as it might seem, Big Blue has its hands in all four of those areas and many, many more, all part of its IBM Research division, a sprawling organization that seeks to keep the company at the bleeding edge of the world's most pressing technology problems and to help it and its partners develop products aimed at solving them.

According to Katherine Frase, IBM Research's vice president of industry solutions and emerging business, the organization's mission boils down to differentiating IBM from its competition, looking for forthcoming market trends, and staying connected with the outside technology community. Essentially, that means that job No. 1 for everyone involved is to put a finger—ahead of time—on the coming business trends and scientific and technology trends and then help figure out how to build products around them.

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