IEEE was founded by entrepreneurs and practicing engineers. Thomas Edison secured more than 1,000 patents and started successful companies. Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. In the 1950s corporate leaders such as William Hewlett, founder of Hewlett Packard, were leaders of IEEE and its predecessor organizations. But over time, IEEE’s member demographics and activities have shifted toward the academic world.
An IEEE ad hoc committee on industry engagement was first appointed in 2014 to understand and re-engage with industry and practicing engineers. The committee’s initial findings were disconcerting. It cited the heavy academic content of IEEE’s publications and other offerings and was critical about IEEE’s relevance to industry and the value of its career-development products.
Those results set off a series of outreach visits in 2015 and 2016 by IEEE’s leaders. The leaders were trying to understand how IEEE can better serve engineers and technologists, to identify any unmet knowledge/technological needs, and to learn what existing and new products and services could deliver more value. In 2015 IEEE delegations traveled to China, Germany, Japan, and Silicon Valley and met with more than 175 senior executives from dozens of companies including DJI, HP Labs, Panasonic, and Siemens. Last year IEEE delegations traveled to China, India, Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom and met with about 270 industry leaders from more than 70 companies including Intel, Samsung, Rolls-Royce, Tata, and Tencent.
Each company expressed different requirements, but common themes emerged from the meetings. For instance, IEEE needs to better market its benefits and value to companies and their employees, as well as to entrepreneurs. The organization also should create products, services, and tools geared toward industry or at least adjust some of its current ones to meet more of practicing engineers’ needs.
The IEEE Board of Directors last year held a strategic retreat that focused on engaging industry through the development of new products and services and delivery of value.
“The 2015 and 2016 outreaches by the IEEE Board enabled us to better understand the industry needs, and allowed these companies to learn much more about IEEE,” says IEEE Fellow Dejan Milojicic, chair of the 2015–2017 IEEE ad hoc committees on industry engagement. “As a result of these meetings, we are working on a number of new initiatives, products, and services geared toward industry. They also enabled us to be much more strategic about industry engagement.”
One initiative is the formation of the Industry Advisory Board (IAB), composed of executives from Boeing, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, and other companies. Plans call for the IAB to meet annually to review IEEE products and services, evaluate how they are aligning with industry needs, and offer ideas about new technical and business directions to better serve the needs of corporate industry interests and practitioners in industry. The inaugural IAB meeting is scheduled for October in West Point, N.Y.
As a result of those outreaches, IEEE has been engaged with industry in a number of different areas, including:
- Subscriptions or upgrades to IEEE’s IP product offerings (Asia).
- IEEE, through the IEEE Israel Section and the Association of Engineers and Architects in Israel (AEAI), agreed to collaborate on joint, annual activities.
- Two workshops were conducted at a Singapore Cyber Security Agency event in October.
- Tencent sponsored the IEEE China Student Congress 2017 as part of its memorandum of understanding with IEEE.
- IEEE, through the IEEE Seoul Section, agreed to collaborate on joint, annual activities with the South Korea Institute of Electronics and Information Engineers (IEIE).
- IEEE is participating in this year’s RoboMasters competition held by DJI (Dà-Jiāng Innovations Science and Technology), the world’s largest civilian drone manufacturer.
- The IEEE—Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Forum on 9 April attracted more than 500 attendees.
- UBTech Education and IEEE agreed to partner on the IEEE–UBTech Education robotics design challenge this year.
- Discussions are underway with the Indian Institute of Science on an IEEE Lab proposal, which would allow students and young professionals to conduct testing of equipment.
A WEALTH OF RESOURCES
A Web page geared to industry is now live. It contains descriptions and links to IEEE products and services. They include IEEE GlobalSpec, IEEE standards, the IEEE Xplore Digital Library, and the InnovationQ Plus intellectual property database. The page also includes links to IEEE’s initiatives on emerging technologies, including ones involving the brain, cybersecurity, digital senses, and smart cities. And there are professional development programs that could help engineers. Links to the IEEE Entrepreneurship portal, including resources for startups, are provided as well.
IEEE is organizing the Industry Summit on the Future of Computing, to be held on 10 November in Washington, D.C. The daylong event, a capstone to IEEE Rebooting Computing Week, takes an interdisciplinary approach.
Trend papers by IEEE on smart cities and 5G are scheduled to be released this year, with more in the pipeline, according to Milojicic. The high-level papers describe technology trends that are affecting industry. Trend papers are targeted to industry professionals and practitioners who want an overview of a specific area, but they also can help engineering managers understand how evolving technology can affect their team.
IEEE’s focus on industry has exposed a need for products and services targeting Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s). IEEE is developing a career navigator, Milojicic says, to help members of the generation understand where they are in their career. The navigator will be able to identify growth opportunities, recommend courses to take, provide insights into new technologies, and offer personalized job opportunities, according to Milojicic. The IEEE Talent Marketplace, another product being explored, aggregates information from the career navigator and interfaces it with corporate recruiting needs. IEEE Technology Trends will take information from IEEE Xplore and feed it into the career navigator and Talent Marketplace, Milojicic says.
Recognition of accomplishments by members and leaders in industry is another area being expanded as part of the ad hoc committee’s focus, he says. Two efforts are underway: A new membership grade is being explored that would add a level of recognition for industry members above senior member and before Fellow; and IEEE is considering awards to recognize significant technical achievements by members in industry.