New York based Corning has become the latest foreign company to invest in a new research and development centre in Montreal. Sharing space in Saint-Laurent with Corning’s Montreal subsidiary, iBwave, this research facility is part of a network of nearly 20 which the $26 billion giant has opened worldwide.
The new facility, officially known as the Corning Technology Centre of Montreal (CTCM) will be used to help develop elements of AI and machine learning that will primarily be leveraged for the company’s optical communications business. However, there will be requests from other divisions of the company looking for synergies in their operations as well, which the company sees as a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting local tech talent.
“One of the values that Corning can bring is that we are not a single product company. We are so diverse and do so many things. For people who might be excited about changing things, the younger generation that is more versatile and likes to do different things, working only on gaming for example, some people might get bored after a period of time. At Corning, we’re going to give them the opportunity to work on Gorilla Glass composition, AR for optical communication, life sciences, environment… we cover so many topics” said Claude Echahamian President & CEO at iBwave.
For those of you unfamiliar with Corning, they specialize in developing highly engineered materials, primarily ceramics and glass. This includes the “Gorilla Glass” covering your cell phone, much of the world’s fiber optic cable, catalytic converters for vehicles and many other products you might use every day without even knowing it. Corning acquired iBwave in 2015, a Montreal software company specializing in building wireless networks, including the one in the Bell Centre.
“If you think about other big companies we are competing with for talent, think about Google and Facebook, they are software companies. Corning is not a software company. We make stuff. We have manufacturing facilities where we actually build things”, says Claudio Mazzali, Senior Vice-President of Technology for Corning’s Optical Communications business segment. “I think the application of software, artificial intelligence and machine learning in this area, where you can see your software directly helping to make things, I think will bring a different perspective from a company like Google or Facebook. Of course there are pros and cons to that, but it’s a different thing that we’re going to bring to the table.”
Mazzali went on to tell MTLinTech that despite the company’s long history of innovation and deep expertise (they made the glass for Edison’s lightbulb in 1879), they need to find new and faster ways to continue to innovate. That’s what they hope AI and machine learning labs like this one will bring them, reducing the amount of trial and error it takes to develop new compounds and new products, as well as enhancing operational efficiencies.
The company sees strong growth potential for solutions driven by iBwave’s software and its own fibre optic cables, which will be required by networks processing data and for IoT enabled devices, both of which are increasingly in demand at a global scale. They also underscored the importance of the CTCM’s proximity to major customers in the telecom space.
Over the next three to five years, Corning intends to hire software engineers, development team managers and data analysts at the Montreal center, although they did not specify how many jobs will be created. The company highlighted the fact that Montreal was chosen for its “deep talent pool” relative to AI and computer science.
CTCM is also a member of IVADO, which they hope will help the CTCM accelerate its operations and hit the ground running. “The area where we plan to use software and AI now is new. It’s not realistic to assume that we would be able to do all this by ourselves with our folks inside closed door labs. We have to collaborate, we have to exchange knowledge with the rest of the community. We have to have that back and forth with other members of the ecosystem” added Mazzali.
CTCM will serve as Corning’s global centre of software innovation to support emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, cloud computing, and data analytics, as well as software solutions for optical-wireless networks