UCL Computer Science


IBM Case Study

UCL IXN and IBM: revolutionising how universities engage with industry 

IBM has been a UCL Industry Exchange Network (UCL IXN) partner for over a decade. The relationship has led to further ground-breaking initiatives and generated "spectacular outcomes".

The global technology company undertakes around 30 UCL IXN projects a year with the UCL Computer Science department. Together they support undergraduate and master's students in devising novel solutions to society's problems.

The students work on proofs of concept using technologies such as IBM's Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine called Watson, Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). The projects have included virtually assisted shopping for isolated people and a humanoid AR assistant for busy places like hospitals. Working with the Royal College of General Practitioners, one team used VR to build a proof of concept to help doctors-in-training reduce exam day nerves. Another project with the charity Water Aid developed a system to assist with the hygienic distribution of water.

The success of the IBM and UCL IXN collaboration has led to the launch of the IBM Industry Exchange Network (IBM IXN). This international education partnership means that IBM can allows IBM to provide projects from across their business and research partnerships, so that more students and companies can benefit from the IXN methodology.

IBM listed the many advantages that IXN brings to the students including:

  • Gaining invaluable work experience and industry connections while they study, with access to the IBM tools and expertise to solve those problems.
  • Having the chance to learn the latest technologies.
  • Making a difference by addressing organisations' challenges while acquiring business skills.

There are also significant plus points for organisations:

  • Reaching new talent and helping students start to build their careers.
  • Allowing companies to innovate without incurring risk.
  • Leveraging technology without redeploying staff from existing projects.
  • Testing ideas and gauging how long future development work could take.
  • Making innovation practical.

IBM highly commended the UCL students. John McNamara, IBM Master Inventor and UK University Programs Lead, said:

The UCL IXN students are invariably excellent. They are a rare mix of dedication, effort, hard work and talent.  And they seem to have all these things in abundance. I expect it's the ethos of the teaching at UCL that instils this into the students.

John also remarked how well prepared the students are for every project; they have the skills to analyse a project, work efficiently in a team and take a solution-focused approach. He credits this to UCL's teaching methodology, where the students are given responsibility in a supportive environment.

Unsurprisingly there's a steady influx of UCL Computer Science graduates joining IBM. And still more are employed by their industry partners from the IBM IXN programme.  

The UCL IXN programme, developed by Dr Dean Mohamedally and Dr Graham Roberts, has been a fundamental part of transforming how we engage with universities. It provides a structured framework that supports both simple and effective collaborations with faculty to generate spectacular outcomes. Most particularly, the UCL IXN program provides the means to spark the creation of hugely inventive technology proofs of concept that inspire industry to innovate. At the same time, students are supported in developing cutting edge technology skills in an industry environment, creating the technology leaders of tomorrow.

John McNamara IBM Master Inventor and UK University Programs Lead 

To learn more about UCL IXN, contact UCL Computer Science's Strategic Alliances Team 

Find out more about IBM’s collaboration with UCL IXN