Cultivating collaboration: a people first approach
By Miran Lee, Principal Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia
When we focus on people first, great projects and new technologies can’t be far behind. This perspective guides Microsoft Research’s activities in every region, and Korea is no exception. Our very first partnership discussions in Korea reinforced this belief. It wasn’t going to be enough to talk to the heads of universities and professors about access to Microsoft’s technologies and resources, or simply to provide Korean students with access to research experiences and scholars.
Knowing this, we aimed for close, direct contact with students and researchers, and sought out people with a passion for research and the drive to take their creativity to a higher level. We weren’t just helping out a few people here and there—we were tilling the soil, creating ideal conditions that would allow these passionate people to grow.
The first decade: a four-point strategy
We focused our collaboration with Korean academia on these areas:
- Discovering and cultivating science and engineering talent through internships and fellowships
- Supporting research infrastructure for universities and research centers
- Supporting innovation for university curricula
- Collaborative research and exchange through academic-industrial partnerships
Each of these activities has hit major milestones in the past decade, some of which are especially notable.
Finding and nurturing: In the last 10 years, talented Korean students—146 of them—have completed internships with us (105 at Microsoft Research Asia and 41 in Redmond). But it’s not only about students; professors have benefited, too. Microsoft Research recognizes professors with great potential, and offers them support for their research through grants and visiting researcher opportunities. Professor Byung-Gon Chun of Seoul National University is one example: He became the first Asian recipient of support, receiving both a research grant and the opportunity to become a visiting researcher.
Supporting research where it lives: Through our support of Korea’s research infrastructure, more than 250 research projects were completed in the last decade. The net investment was nearly $9 million. We’ve also offered services such as opening up Windows code to researchers, and providing cloud computing resources to them, as well.
Developing the teaching tools: Microsoft Research has supported the advancement of science and engineering curricula, joining forces with academia to develop better educational content and teaching methods. One example is Yonsei University, which established a curriculum for computational thinking.
Exchanging, collaborating, innovating: Our 10-year collaboration with Korea’s academia has opened the floodgates for emerging technologies by creating venues for academic exchange. The Korea-Japan Academic Day was held in May 2015 at Microsoft Korea’s headquarters in Gwanghwamun, Seoul. Many scholars who work on leading innovative research projects in their fields attended the event to share research findings and exchange ideas on Big Data, IoT, and Machine Learning.
All of these activities are elements of a process to create a people-first platform for cultivating talent and furthering the field of research.
The next 10 years
Our strong focus on people makes new technology and other great results inevitable. By continuing our efforts to collaborate and form partnerships, we predict we’ll hit more important milestones in the next decade. Microsoft Research will provide schools, students, research groups, and research centers with research mentoring, new technologies, information, and computing power, which will free academics to focus entirely on creative research. And, to encourage that creative research, we’re developing a virtual network, one that will allow researchers around the world to interact and grow.
Our hope for Microsoft Research is that these extensive programs will continue nurturing talent in Korea. The soil is fertile, and we can’t wait to see what else will grow.