CS professor says it’s time to step-up local university-industry collaboration in Information Technologies

When it comes to information technology (IT), Nashville has made great strides, but needs much more.

Doug Schmidt
Doug Schmidt

Our shared concern about growing our IT talent pool is undeniably on-target. Software development and broader engineering skills and sheer innovative capacity are at a premium globally, as well as nationwide. It’s therefore no surprise that recruiting and retaining talented IT professionals in our region is harder than we’d like. This is particularly true in such IT growth sectors as mobile applications, information security, health information systems, cyber-physical systems and cloud computing.

None of the most important U.S. IT-industry clusters, such as Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston, and Austin, has succeeded without strong collaboration among local universities and industries. Such synergies help expand scientific and applied knowledge, as well as spur private-sector productivity, innovation and growth.Fortunately, there is strong, but under-developed potential for synergy among Nashville’s academic and scientific communities and industry. The vital ingredient: Broader, deeper collaboration among local universities and companies. There is broad consensus on this point, and some initiatives are already underway.

Yet, there remain untapped opportunities locally for industry leaders’ involvement; for example:
►  Join faculty in guiding “capstone” student design projects, in which graduating seniors create and execute software-intensive projects for external clients. Industry mentors help students analyze problems, plan software development, produce robust solutions, and then evaluate their work.
►  Work with student-led IT organizations, such as the Vanderbilt Mobile Applications Team (VMAT). VMAT is helping Nashville retain a vital pool of talented developers who focus on mobile, Web and social-media presence. Many VMAT alumni have formed/joined local high-tech startups.
►  Partner with such research institutes as the Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS), based in the Vanderbilt University’s School of Engineering. It focuses on systems with deeply integrated software that are networked, embedded, and cyber-physical. ISIS routinely works with faculty at UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Harvard, MIT, Stanford and others; and, with Boeing, GM, Lockheed-Martin, Siemens, Microsoft Research and other leading companies.

Believe me, these three ideas merely scratch the surface of potential collaborations among Nashville companies, universities, and scientific communities.

For our part, Vanderbilt’s School of Engineering looks forward to further collaboration with industry and universities, here in our hometown.

By Douglas C. Schmidt

Schmidt is the associate chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Program, a professor of Computer Science, and a senior researcher within the Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS), all at Vanderbilt University’s School of Engineering.