13 January 2010
Interview: Albert Banchs, Deputy Director of the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies in Networks – IMDEA Networks.
Albert Banchs, Ph.D. in Telematics Engineering, has been appointed Deputy Director of IMDEA Networks as a consequence of the appointment of Arturo Azcorra as Director General for Technology Transfer and Industrial Development in the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.
1.- From your perspective as a researcher, what aspects of the Science and technology policy of the Madrid region would you highlight?
The Regional government of Madrid carries out its scientific and technological research and development policy with the knowledge that there is a direct relationship between the region’s capacity for innovation and its competitive output. As the goal of any public policy is ultimately society’s welfare, this policy is aimed to promote human and economic development in the Madrid Region bringing knowledge transfer back full circle to the citizen as primary investor. The IMDEA initiative is an exemplary application of this policy. Plans and resources have been enabled to provide infrastructures, equipment and teams of qualified workers to create the ideal environment for scientific work, freeing researchers from administrative duties and allowing them to concentrate on their specialized activities, as well as fostering creativity through collaboration.
2.- Is the IMDEA initiative one of the defining factors of this policy?
Absolutely. The IMDEAs are being implanted with the aim to foster the creation of technology-based companies and to improve the quality of human resources in the scientific community, with marked emphasis in the professionalization of the scientific career in Spain and the improvement of the rights, working conditions and benefits of its representatives. It is in this manner that we aim to offer an attractive counterpart to countries with a long-standing investment in science and its workers.The IMDEA initiative exemplifies the professionalization of science, the encouragement of young research talent, and the promotion of a career in research as an optimal, respected and valued role to be assumed in society. Investment in research is investment in a qualified work force that operates from the vantage point of the know-how: they tread the way of progress towards economic prosperity.
3.- The IMDEA Institutes claim that one of their basic objectives is to attract scientists of International renown to Madrid. What factors reinforce its attractiveness as a destination point in such a competitive environment where tradition and repute seem key to success?
When competing with traditional destinations for scientists, such as the USA, Madrid’s decision-makers are relying on institutionalized support for the development of an economic model that promotes scientific and technological innovation to strengthen its long-term goal to prioritize the support of regional strategic sectors (the IT, biotechnology, aerospace and renewable energy industries). The objective is to integrate and coordinate the regional R&D network to enhance its potential as a motor for economic development and social well being. But the key to any enterprise is first and foremost the people who compose it. We need to convince the best in their fields to take the leap and lead the way, so that others may follow. As a starting point the Madrid region already concentrates a quarter of R&D professionals in Spain, a near equivalent of its R&D investment level in comparison to the Spanish nation as a whole.
Furthermore, Madrid is attractive to foreign talent due to its remarkable quality of life, which is characterized by strategic factors such as a strong international background (foreign population nears 20%), a vibrant culture, multilingual educational and knowledge centers (14 universities plus 2 distance learning universities with over 25% Engineering students), a universal health care system, beneficial income tax system for Expats (24% during the first six years), and a highly logistic location for communications exchange and travel to Europe, the Mediterranean, Latin America and Africa. Madrid is strategically placed also culturally speaking.The increasingly large presence of the Hispanic community in Anglo-Saxon countries has raised the visibility of Spain and its capital Madrid as the motherland of a cultural force to be reckoned with as a competitor as well as a collaborator.
4.- Could you identify the societal benefits of research developed by IMDEA Networks?
IMDEA Networks operates in an area of knowledge which is fundamental to present day society: Information Technology. IT has a central position in our day-to-day activities whether these are economic, political or cultural. Information in all its expressions creates wealth and a society’s capacity to understand, communicate and therefore exploit its knowledge determines its economic development. IMDEA Networks conducts research of the highest order in the IT field of networking technologies, which provides the platform on which the Future Wireless Internet shall be built. We aim to technologically enable a world in which access to information and communication capacities is widespread, democratic, incremental and beneficial to all. The Future Wireless Internet will be a pervasive, ubiquitous and mobile networking service, allowing “anytime, anywhere” connectivity. Wireless and wired networks shall provide the infrastructure in which the evolving “network society” shall thrive.
5.- Dr. Banchs, you have recently been appointed Deputy Director of IMDEA Networks. What challenges do you face in this role?
The Institute faces challenges which are essential to its short and long term success, as they define our strategy of competitive placement within the international scientific community as well as the achievement of our socio-economic objectives. Firstly, we must achieve international recognition as a centre of excellence, continuing with our policy of recruiting first-rate scientists and of publishing our results in the most prestigious international forums. Secondly, we aim to assist in establishing Madrid as a pioneering region in the IT sector. Finally, we direct our work towards strengthening collaboration ties with industry, particularly through joint participation in projects and technology transfer.
6.- What are IMDEA Networks’ main research lines? Could you number your most significant results?
I would like to highlight the substantial increase of our scientific potential over the last year. In that time we have doubled the size of our research team and we now have researchers from 15 different nations. Collaboration with other entities is a cornerstone of our strategy and we are already working on collaborative projects with various companies at national and international level. We are focusing our efforts through our research program in Internet Technologies, Wireless Technologies and Energy-Efficient Technologies. Other results I may emphasize are several publications in top level venues and international magazines; the organization – together with University Carlos III of Madrid – of one of the most relevant annual international conferences for networking researchers – ACM CoNEXT 2008; several patents and contributions to organizations devoted to scientific standardization such as the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force).