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IBM's Zurich Research Lab celebrates its 50th anniversary

History with a future: Celebrating innovation

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Zurich, Switzerland, 3 February 2006—Looking at the history of IBM's Zurich Research Lab (ZRL), it becomes clear that innovation has constituted an integral part of its philosophy since the very beginning. This is illustrated by the broad range of research breakthroughs and other successes that have been achieved here in the past 50 years. And innovation will continue to be the driving force of future research. Thus it was only natural to choose the slogan "Celebrating Innovation – 50 Years IBM Zurich Research Lab" for the lab's anniversary activities that will take place throughout 2006.

ZRL 50 years celebrating innovation The year 2006 will be a very special one for IBM's (NYSE: IBM) Zurich Research Lab. First of all, it marks the 50th anniversary of world-class research at ZRL, which was established in 1956 as the first of IBM's research labs outside of the US. What's more, it marks the 25th anniversary of the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope by ZRL scientists Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer in 1981. This device made it possible to visualize the world of atoms for the first time, and its invention marks the birth of nanotechnology. Five years later, Binnig and Rohrer were off to Stockholm to accept the Nobel prize in physics in 1986.

Also in 1986, ZRL scientists K. Alex Müller and J. Georg Bednorz discovered high-temperature superconductivity, for which they received the physics Nobel prize for following year. So-called high-temperature superconductors are generally considered to be those that demonstrate superconductivity at or above the temperature of liquid nitrogen (–196 °C), and this discovery opened novel possibilities for lossless transportation of electrical energy.

Two Nobel prizes in as many yearsthis was a global precedent that truly put ZRL on the map within the international scientific community. These anniversaries call for a celebration to express the recognition they deserve. In honor of this special year, ZRL is planning a colorful palette of activities.


The celebration year started with the 20th anniversary of the discovery of high-temperature superconductivity, illustrating the importance of exploratory research. This special internal event in February included talks by Nobel laureates J. Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller.

Then, during Science Week from March 20-24, ZRL hosts twelve high-school classes and allows them a look at current projects. The presentations and demonstrations cover topics such as pervasive computing and nanotechnology.

On June 10, ZRL will open its doors to the public for an open house. Numerous demonstrations and lab exhibits will provide a glimpse of everyday life at ZRL.

The International Conference on Nanoscience and Technology (ICN&T 2006) takes place in Basel, Switzerland, from July 31 to August 4. It celebrates the 25th anniversary of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), the instrument that in 1981 unlocked the nanoscale universe. Four Nobel laureates, among them the fathers of the invention, ZRL researchers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, as well as 1500 scientists will meet to discuss their cutting-edge insights into a vast scope of topics ranging from pure science to biology, medicine, and computing. There will also be two exhibitions for the general public, the Nanorama and a Nanotruck, which will allow fascinating glimpses at the mysterious world of ultrasmall dimensions.

More information and media registration can be found here.

Coincidentally, 2006 also marks the 40th anniversary of the "Swiss Youth Research Projects" foundation (Schweizer Jugend forscht). To celebrate this anniversary, ZRL in conjunction with IBM Switzerland is organizing an Innovation Jam. This event will offer young science talents an Internet-based competition focused on how cutting-edge information technology could be applied to solve everyday problems, such as the deployment of pervasive computing in retirement homes. On November 10, the winners of the Internet Jam will visit ZRL and meet with experts for in-depth discussions of these topics.

Then, the official ceremonial event of the 50th anniversary celebration will take place on September 28. Guests from IBM as well as political, industrial and academic leaders will join ZRL's community in celebrating 50 years of innovation that matters as well as sharing their visions of the future.

To close the year-long anniversary celebration, ZRL will host an Innovation Summit in November with a special focus on a topic taken from the 2006 IBM Global Innovation Outlook: The Future of the Enterprise. This top-class summit will be organized and hosted in collaboration with a business school and a partner company.

Throughout the year, we will host several Media@the Lab days to which we invite journalists all over Europe to visit ZRL. Under our anniversary theme “Celebrating Innovation”, we will present highlight projects from our broad spectrum of research areas.

Reflecting the many facets of innovation at IBM, projects encompass

  • exploratory research in physics and materials science to design next-generation computer chips,
  • novel storage concepts on the basis of nanotechnology,
  • the development of advanced system architectures including the use of optical channels as data links in a computer,
  • security and privacy,
  • sophisticated mathematical modeling for optimizing business processes and transforming businesses to become truly on demand.

Press contact

Nicole Strachowski
Media Relations
IBM Research - Zurich
Tel +41 44 724 84 45

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