Innovation Knows No Borders

Brussels, Belgium, April 10, 2003 — This year Microsoft celebrates 20 years of operation in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. Working with industry partners and taking inspiration from its customers, Microsoft’s goal has been to stimulate a broad IT ecosystem, enabling opportunities for technologies to come to life through new ideas that are changing the way we live and work.

Jean-Philippe Courtois, CEO, Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa. Click on the image for a high resolution photo

Shifting expectations of how technology should support people at work and at home are a major driver of technology change. Take expectations of the speed and usability of technology: 10 years ago — when the world was pre-Internet and pre-e-mail, pre-broadband and only just getting used to the first user-friendly GUI interface — our expectations of how we used technology and the kind of service we could expect were vastly different. Today, technology is ubiquitous; we want instant connections and perfect service whether at home or at work. Across the EMEA region, that expectation is the same, whether you are in London or Lisbon, Nice or Nairobi. To meet that expectation, innovative approaches to the way technology is applied and developed are essential.

Today, Microsoft announced the creation of the European Microsoft Innovation Center (EMIC) , located in Aachen, NordRhein-Westfalen, Germany. The center represents the company’s latest commitment to fostering innovation in the region and adds an additional component to the research and development work Microsoft carries out worldwide. The EMIC will open in May 2003 and initially employ 10 people from across Europe, with that number growing as projects multiply and partnerships develop. It will focus on applied research and technology development for projects that are aligned with the established technology priorities of the European Union, designed for medium term results.

Created to foster public-private partnerships throughout Europe, the work at the EMIC will contribute information technology expertise to public-private partnership-based projects. Working together with academic institutions and industry partners, the EMIC will concentrate its efforts in security and privacy, mobility and wireless, Web services technologies and social concerns such as e-learning and e-health, where new technology solutions and discoveries can make a contribution and have a positive impact.

Philippe Busquin, European Commissioner for Research & Development, commends Microsoft on the new investment.
“This constitutes a real vote of confidence in the European technology industries and in the progress we are making toward our vision of a true European Research Area,”
he notes.
“The model Microsoft has created with EMIC will help stimulate more public-private partnerships, and is a positive step in helping to meet the goal of raising Europe’s research spending to 3 percent of EU average GDP, and spread the knowledge gained in those partnerships widely throughout the region.”

“This is another step towards expanding Microsoft’s contribution to the European technology development community,”
says Jean-Philippe Courtois, CEO, Microsoft EMEA.
“We are eager to continue making our contribution by working with commercial and academic organizations that are investing and innovating in Europe for the long term.”

Innovation in EMEA — A Long-Term Commitment

Though the industry has made great strides in the past 10 years, Courtois explains why innovation is still important.
“Today, as the Digital Decade emerges, we’re entering a time when computing is genuinely relevant and essential to everyday life. The pace of innovation is accelerating rapidly as technology becomes more integrated into the fabric of our lives, and this requires Microsoft and the industry as a whole to examine and apply technology in completely new ways to transform customers’ lives for the better. The EMEA region is making great progress in how it uses and develops technology, and, as the EMIC shows, Microsoft is keen to play its part in accelerating this progress.”

Microsoft’s innovation efforts in the EMEA region are designed to produce short- and long-term results. In the 5-10 year period, the pure research work done at Microsoft Research Cambridge and with the academic community, might come to fruition. Shorter-term results, in the first three years, are produced by the cooperation Microsoft undertakes with commercial partners as well as through product development and product localization centres located in Dublin, Ireland and in Vedbaek, Denmark.

Building the Foundation with Microsoft Research Cambridge

Microsoft’s commitment to innovation in Europe is not new. Six years ago, Microsoft set up Microsoft Research Cambridge to bring together the finest minds from Europe and beyond and push the state of the art forward…. Today, MSR Cambridge has 60 researchers representing 16 nationalities, who work with other research labs in Beijing and Redmond to invent future technologies in areas as diverse as imaging, programming tools, home network management and human-technology interfaces.

“The success of MSR lies in hiring the best researchers in their field and allowing them the flexibility to pursue the projects about which they are passionate,”
says Courtois. He points out that this approach allows the researchers to push the limits of what may be possible, and that many of the technology breakthroughs find their way into Microsoft’s products.

“Since the creation of the Cambridge lab, research done there has been applied to a wide range of products including the Tablet PC, Pocket PC, Picture It! and Visual Studio. By ensuring this technology transfer, customers and partners receive a constant supply of new products and technologies that help them realize their potential in a rapidly changing environment,”
Courtois says.

Increasing Cooperation with the Academic World

The EMEA region has some of the best academic institutions in the world and Microsoft has strong links with over 80 of them, such as the University of Lancaster in England and the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Judith Bishop, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Pretoria, explains the import of this cooperation.

“The exchange of ideas, research input and technical and financial support, guidance and cooperation, is invaluable for both academics and students,”
says Bishop.
“Some of Microsoft Research’s most senior researchers are actively interested in projects driven by postgraduate groups, providing advice and adding an industry perspective to work within universities — and providing great motivation at the same time.”

“By openly communicating and sharing resources and technologies across the academic community, Microsoft aims to promote further development of ideas and tools that can be used by our partners to accelerate and improve their work ,”
explains Courtois.

In Berlin, for example, a live distributed computing laboratory set up across the city’s four universities gives researchers at Microsoft and at the university the scope to test new technologies like .NET in a distributed environment. Mobile and wireless communication, and coupling middleware and embedded systems are among the research projects underway, as well as extensive use of the lab as a teaching and student research resource. Work with Lancaster University using Windows Embedded technologies has helped Lancaster to develop, test, and become expert in IPv6 technology. That success has become a blueprint for cooperation with other institutions and validated the importance of academic partnerships. This blueprint will be applied to other institutions in Europe through the newly created European Universities’ Consortium. This group of six European Universities will focus in particular on Security and Mobility for Windows Embedded technologies. By increasing the number of institutions involved in research in this area, a better community – with stronger support, projects and interaction – develops.

Innovating to meet changing market needs

The work carried out at MSR and with the academic community is focused on the long-term; but the industry also needs to cater to more rapid change as markets evolve. At Microsoft, innovation can take many forms. Two major centers for innovation focused on this short-term change are the European Product Development Center (EPDC) in Dublin, Ireland and the Microsoft Business Solutions Division in Vedbaek, Copenhagen.

Staff at the EPDC work on 100 products in more than 27 languages, and constantly review market needs in an effort to deliver the right resources for customers in their countries. Much of the EPDC’s success is a result of partnerships with organizations across the world.

For example, a new Irish-language spellchecker was recently launched in Ireland — a direct result of a cooperative project between Trinity College, one of Ireland’s leading universities, and Microsoft staff. While the everyday spoken language in most of Ireland is English, Irish is taught in schools and required for those employed in government office. The language is highly complex — so users needed an Irish spellchecker to help them when using Irish in their documents.

In cooperation with Trinity College, Microsoft product teams provided finance, brainpower and time to a master’s degree student, Michael Burke, who created the tool. The final version was launched commercially in January this year and has been extremely well-received in the Irish market. Successful cooperation like this goes on across the globe, coordinated by Microsoft’s EPDC team.

The Microsoft Business Solutions Division at Vedbaek in Copenhagen is the company’s largest product development center outside the United States. Its staff are experts in understanding and meeting the unique needs of small and medium business customers in the EMEA region, and particularly in supply-chain and manufacturing solutions. The Vedbk development center gives Microsoft access to the significant IT talent pool in the EMEA region and fosters connections with local universities. Over the coming year, Microsoft’s will raise its commitment to R & D at this center by increasing the number of developers employed there by 20 percent.

Courtois emphasises the importance of Microsoft’s work.
“As Microsoft tries to cater to customers’ specific product needs, our partners are fundamental to our innovation efforts. Working with our product groups and building on our platforms, our partners help us deliver new products and services quickly, to anticipate or meet demands produced by changes in the business or home environment.”

In the United Kingdom, for example, Microsoft industry partner DAT has built an Over The Air (OTA) solution for one of Britain’s largest supermarket online ordering systems at Subscribers using Microsoft Windows Powered Pocket PCs are able to shop for their groceries from anywhere with wired or wireless Internet access. The system lets customers browse the product portfolio and select and buy goods while on the move from anywhere with wired or wireless connectivity. Updates and changes to the catalogue are dynamically delivered to the device OTA to provide the most comprehensive and current mobile shopping experience available today.

Tim Carmichael, Technical Director at DAT Group, says
“Working with Microsoft to develop this solution has enabled us to deliver immediate benefits to people who are managing an increasingly busy and dynamic lifestyle. It is exactly this type of integration of technology into everyday lifestyles that we need to drive more of, if we are all to achieve the Digital Decade.”

Courtois sums up the role of innovation in the EMEA region and for Microsoft as a whole.
“Pushing the boundaries of possibility is at the heart of everything Microsoft does. Whether basic research, market-driven or customer-inspired, it remains the foundation of our work. Our commitment to the future of technology in EMEA will help us make the Digital Decade a reality for businesses and consumers in the region.”

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