Over the past nine years, the close relationship between IBM and the University has led to numerous opportunities for students and staff. With activities ranging from hackathons and guest lectures to experience days, these have delivered mutual benefit, allowing students to gain insight into the latest technology development and career opportunities, and enabling IBM staff to exchange ideas and explore avenues for collaborative research and innovation.
John McNamara, an IBM Master Inventor and IBM University Lead for the UK, delivers a guest lecture to students each year. His talks have covered the democratisation of AI, intelligent space probes and cognitive coffee machines, with 200 students attending his latest lecture. John also delivered a talk on project-based learning to staff during the university’s recent research seminar series.
Other campus visits have included a guest lecture from Caroline Taylor, IBM’s former Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Citizenship, and the IBM Skills Truck, which gave students the chance to experience new technologies, learn sustainability skills and hear about the different faces of IBM.
Elsewhere, IBM hosted a Business School Alumni Reception on The Digital Economy, where talks from Jamie Cole and Professor Roger Maull explored key questions around personal data protection and success in an increasingly digital economy.
Thanks to the partnership, University of Exeter students have been invited to join the IBM Academic Initiative – a toolkit of powerful open-source computer technologies and hands-on resources in data science, artificial intelligence, and security.
Each year, students and staff also take part the annual IBM hackathon. In these events, they collaborate intensively over a short period to develop technological solutions to a particular social or business problem.
In 2019, for example, IBM provided all the tech support and two members of staff to help the University run a hackathon for 72 hours – led by Dr Genevieve Williams in Sports and Health Science – looking at ageing, social inclusion and teenage health. While giving students hands-on tech and innovation experience, the hackathon also led to Dr Williams developing a pitch side concussion tool with IBM.
The partnership also supports an annual trip to IBM’s research and development laboratory in Hursley, where students from the University spend the day visiting the research facilities and Emerging Technology lab, and speaking with IBM staff about the career opportunities available.
During the 2020 visit, PhD students listened to talks by current IBM Hursley staff and presented their own research to IBM researchers, before an information session on the application process. For Peter Inzani, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Exeter, the visit revealed “a promising career opportunity, where I will be able to use some of the skills that I am learning during my PhD and through research into an industry setting.”
The partnership has also facilitated student visits to IBM’s research team at The Hartree Centre in Daresbury. In 2018, a cohort of postgraduate researchers visited the Centre to get an introduction to the team’s work on applying data science to real-world problems in machine learning, chemistry, life sciences, engineering and manufacturing.