“What unites us at IMDEA Networks is our shared mission to develop solutions for Future Wireless Internet”
26 October 2008
Interview to Arturo Azcorra, Director, IMDEA Networks.
1. First of all we would like to thank you for the time you are giving us and for your willingness to participate in this interview. You presently hold a double appointment as a Full Professor at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and as Director of IMDEA Networks. Please tell us how your education and career to date have enabled you to achieve this position.
I spent some of my formative years in the United States, graduating from High School in Michigan in 1980. That experience of living and working in a different country was life-changing and left me convinced of the benefits to anyone who chooses this difficult path. In 1993, I obtained an MBA from the Instituto de Empresa, one of the World’s most prestigious business schools.
I was an Associate Professor at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid from 1987 to 1998. Then in 2000, I was appointed Deputy Vice-Provost for Academic Infrastructures at the UC3M. I have also been fortunate enough to have also worked at ICSI University of California, Berkeley as a Visiting Professor in 1999, and then, in 2002, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Now, as Director of IMDEA Networks, I collaborate with brilliant young early-stage researchers as well as with some of the most eminent established researchers on the international scene.
2. Why does society need a new international institute to research networking technologies, i.e. IMDEA Networks?
The Regional Government of Madrid has shown visionary leadership, recognizing the need to invest now in research in strategic sectors such as Networking Technologies, in order to build a competitive, knowledge-based economy. In the long term, this investment will be repaid in the creation of value by attracting technology companies to the region and of employment for highly- skilled workers. The Spanish Information Technology sector is highly concentrated in Madrid: 70% of Spanish industries are located in Madrid. Some of them, notably Telefónica, contribute a huge amount of socio-economic wealth to the region. The Information Technology sector is therefore absolutely strategic in Madrid. The Regional Government understands that to build globally-competitive industries we need to encourage World-class research. To do this we must attract top researchers to work with us.
Scientifically, the need is clear too. We are living through the Information Revolution. Access to the vast amounts of information and services available through the Internet provides opportunities that were previously unthinkable. Internet access enables people from every background to change their lives for the better.
Today’s Internet is a global phenomenon but primarily meets the needs of a relatively small proportion of the World’s population. The Future Wireless Internet needs to correspond to the realities and needs of everyone. The technical solutions that will enable this new model must be the product of international collaboration. It is also imperative that the solutions to these problems are successfully and rapidly diffused through a process of technology transfer. For this reason the researchers working in this field need to work closely with industry thereby ensuring their work’s relevance to real-world needs.
There are many excellent Universities and research laboratories around the World – including Universidad Carlos III of Madrid – conducting leading-edge research in networking technologies.
However, with IMDEA Networks, we have been able to create a new research institute that is designed from top-to-bottom to address the specific challenges presented by the Future Wireless Internet, and to become a meeting place between industry and universities in order to put knowledge to work, creating advanced and profitable new services, products and companies.
3. Could you explain exactly what you mean by the Future Wireless Internet?
If the Internet is to deliver the benefits that its potential suggests, its use in the future will be characterized by billions of billions of devices all connected wirelessly. Mobile phones; PCs; environmental sensors; household devices like fridges; even clothing – they will all connect to this Future Wireless Internet.
Also, the rapid economic development of some of the World’s largest countries – India, China, Brazil, and Russia – will drive much of the future Internet growth. In many of these countries they are largely bypassing the roll-out of “old” wired networks and going directly to this wireless model as a means of satisfying their societies’ urgent need for voice and data services. In China, eight million new subscribers connect to the mobile communications network every month (yes, every month).
The deployment of wireless networks can rapidly deliver connectivity to many users and devices in even the remotest of locations at economically viable cost. (The cost and time required to connect these devices by cable would simply make it unfeasible.) This is what we mean when we talk about the Future Wireless Internet – it is a cornerstone of sustained development and social integration in the globalised economy.
4. In this vision of the Future Wireless Internet, what specific challenges are being addressed by IMDEA Networks?
If mankind is to benefit fully from this global phenomenon, the Future Wireless Internet must be robust and capable of supporting all of our developing requirements. This new paradigm presents us with many challenges and we have an interest and responsibility to ensure these are met and overcome. This is the mission we have set ourselves: to address the challenges such as Pervasive Internet Access, Security and Privacy, Resilient Scalable Network Control, Content Distribution Networks, and Alternative business models
The nature of these challenges and the technological solutions to them are both changing with ever-greater rapidity. In order to ensure the relevance of our activities, our Institute must adapt quickly to new priorities. Consequently, research activities and resources are loosely organized into lines of research that reflect our priorities in respect to these challenges at any moment in time. Our Institute is a meeting place in which scientists from around the World come together; collaborate; produce results; split apart and form new collaborative arrangements as circumstances allow and demand. Our lines of research, therefore, evolve and change frequently.
5. What qualities, skills or experience are you looking for in research candidates for positions at IMDEA Networks?
IMDEA Networks is a think tank for excellent researchers at all stages of the typical research career. We want people who can demonstrate their commitment to excellence and who want to do more than simply publish so many papers every year. They will want to be working on valuable solutions to real-world problems.
We actively seek diversity in the composition of our team. What unites us is our shared mission to develop solutions for Future Wireless Internet. We communicate in English, the working language of the Institute. We share a drive to achieve excellence for ourselves and for the Institute.
6. What does IMDEA Networks offer today that makes us attractive to both experienced and early stage researchers?
At IMDEA Networks early-stage (pre- and post-doc) researchers collaborate with top scientists such as our prize-winning Chief Researchers, Dr. Nick Maxemchuk and Dr. Marco Ajmone. We also have a very successful Visiting Researcher program that has attracted top researchers such as Dr. Jon Crowcroft, Dr. Gustavo de Veciana and Dr. Nicolas Georganas in the last year. We are now launching a new program to exchange researchers with industry at a European scale, funded by the European Commission through the AMAROUT action.
Our researchers will be working on European projects with a very international group of collaborators. We have an excellent infrastructure here in Madrid and a highly-supportive Regional Government, as well as the collaboration and excellent support of Madrid universities such as my own, Universidad Carlos III of Madrid.
We also provide full support to international researchers to ensure their move to Madrid is as easy and trouble-free as possible. We offer internationally competitive remuneration and relocation packages.
7. Lastly, how do you envisage IMDEA Networks in five years time?
In five years time we will have established ourselves in our 8000m2, purpose-built research centre, close to the centre of Madrid. This will be a state of the art building, equipped to World-Class standards and corresponding to the needs of our research activities. It will accommodate up to around 150 permanent research staff, advanced research labs and facilities, the Network Operating Centre of REDIMadrid, the regional research center, as well as large numbers of Visiting Researchers and Interns.
The Institute will be recognized as being the hub of an international network of top scientists and researchers who are advancing our knowledge and understanding of how to achieve the Future Wireless Internet. IMDEA Networks will be fomenting research excellence, creativity and entrepreneurship, thereby creating value and wealth for the region.
Link to media publication: Madri+d (In Spanish)