Innovation in Communities

Innovation in Communities

There is no part of modern life that technology does not affect. As a technology company, IBM works closely with hundreds of organizations to discover ways in which technology can be applied to solving some of the world’s most entrenched problems. In 2013, we continued to scale this work in an effort to have a truly transformative impact on key issues.

World Community Grid: A “Virtual” Supercomputer

World Community Grid® is a virtual supercomputer that enables anyone with a desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet to donate their unused computing power to cutting-edge scientific research related to topics such as health, poverty, and sustainability. Researchers can take advantage of World Community Grid’s free computing power, and have already completed the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of years of research in less than a decade. Through the contributions of more than 640,000 individuals, 460 organizations, and 2.5 million devices, World Community Grid has supported 22 research projects since launching in 2004, including the search for more effective treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS, and tropical diseases, as well as the development of low-cost water filtration systems and new materials for capturing solar energy efficiently. Many cutting-edge scientific research initiatives require vast computing power; by working with World Community Grid, researchers can break these big research challenges down into millions of smaller questions that can be answered independently by volunteers’ devices.

World Community Grid was created to establish a means of eliminating the financial barrier to making headway in areas of critical research. The program brings together three trends that are transforming the way scientific research is being conducted: the advent of cutting-edge computational chemistry techniques to conduct computer-based simulations and experiments that accelerate research; the movement toward open access to research techniques and results with the aim of increasing collaboration and accelerating scientific discovery; and the rise of citizen science, involvement by people around the world eager to understand and take part in scientific discovery by actively supporting professional scientists. By bringing together these groups on the World Community Grid, IBM is working to help advance scientific understanding, enable the development of solutions for some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues, and include non-scientists to help in the search for answers.

Helping power cutting-edge research in health, poverty, and sustainability

In 2013, World Community Grid further accelerated researchers’ work. Among the highlights:

Advancing scientific discovery

Solar energy cells are typically made from silicon, which is expensive and rigid. If they can be made from carbon instead, solar cells could become affordable and flexible enough to paint on roofs or weave into fabrics.

Harvard University’s Clean Energy Project announced the discovery of more than 35,000 materials with the potential to double carbon-based solar cell efficiency, after scanning more than two million materials on World Community Grid. Previously, carbon-based solar cells were made from a handful of highly efficient molecules that were painstakingly discovered one by one. Now there are thousands more to explore – an exponential increase. This discovery received public praise from the US White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for its role in advancing materials science. This breakthrough and others contributed to the nearly 40 scientific papers that our research collaborators have published in peer-reviewed journals based on work conducted on World Community Grid.

“Our biggest challenge was the change of mindset. Usually, computational chemists are studying 10 or 20 molecules at a time. We had to start thinking in terms of millions of molecules and formulate new ideas based on this new scale. World Community Grid allows us to screen about 25,000 molecules every day as part of what we believe to be the world’s most extensive quantum chemical investigation.” Dr. Alán Aspuru-Guzik, professor of chemistry and chemical biology and principal investigator, Clean Energy Project, Harvard University

World Community Grid goes mobile

In 2013, World Community Grid became one of the first major volunteer computing initiatives to enable mobile computing with the launch of an Android app for smartphones and tablets. With the unprecedented growth in mobile device ownership, this development allows World Community Grid researchers to tap into a growing source of power.

Powering the search for more effective HIV treatments on an Android device

Powering the search for more effective HIV treatments on an Android device

Identifying the markers associated with cancer

Also in 2013, World Community Grid launched a new project, Mapping Cancer Markers, to help researchers detect cancer earlier and design more effective treatments. Working with the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Mapping Cancer Markers is scanning patient data to identify chemical signatures, or markers, associated with particular types of cancer. These markers indicate an individual's risk of developing a particular form of cancer, as well as how they might respond to a specific treatment.

Researchers explain Mapping Cancer Markers

A global network for good

World Community Grid is a volunteer computing initiative devoted to humanitarian science, providing as much computing power to researchers as some of the world’s largest supercomputers. In 2013, volunteers set a new record by contributing 2.5 million scientific calculations a day. In total, volunteers have contributed more than 1.7 billion calculations through World Community Grid—each a piece of the puzzle to solving some of the biggest challenges of our time.

World Community Grid



Participants in

80 countries

Computers, smartphones and tablets

2.5 million

Impact Grants

IBM strives to make its donations to the nonprofit community sustainable, impactful, and scalable. We closely tie our contributions to our business expertise and product offerings, implementing the same solutions as our clients around the world are using. In this way, IBM eschews “checkbook philanthropy,” and instead engages nonprofit organizations on a deeper, more collaborative level. By aligning Impact Grants with our core business capabilities, we are delivering service and technology that help transform nonprofit organizations and, in turn, the communities they work with. We strive to gain a better understanding of the true needs of these organizations so we can deliver greater value, and also to help these organizations improve their skills, thus helping to improve their operations going forward.

IBM Impact Grants provide consulting expertise, hardware, and software specifically designed to support educational and nonprofit organizations in their efforts to serve our communities. The diversity of these grants allows IBM to deliver services and technology that meet the ever-changing needs of the nonprofit sector. These offerings were developed in collaboration with our grantees in the nonprofit community and focus on strategic growth, capacity building, cloud, and business analytics, while leveraging IBM solutions and consulting expertise to build skills.

In 2013, IBM expanded the program both within the United States and abroad, utilizing more than 1,000 IBM consultants and making more than 350 grants worldwide with a combined market value of approximately $11 million. IBM plans to evolve the program as the needs of the nonprofit community change and our business offerings grow. Along with the evolution of IBM’s strategy, the portfolio of Impact Grants will continue to benefit from new solutions and innovation to help transform communities.


the number of grants IBM gave worldwide in 2013, with a market value totaling $11 million


the number of grants IBM has given worldwide since 2010, with a market value totaling $25 million

IBM’s consulting-oriented Impact Grants range from one-day workshops for capacity-building offerings, such as leadership and project management, to multi-week engagements that focus on business trends such as social media and big-data analytics. The software grants provide cloud and analytics software, coupled with user training, to help organizations deploy collaboration tools and use data to make smarter decisions. The market value of these grants range from $10,000 to $100,000, although custom grants can exceed this value.

IBM’s current grant offerings include:

Capacity building

Strategic growth


Business analytics

Grant spotlights

Maryland Business Roundtable (MBRT) for Education

Grant: Custom

Duration: multi-year

Amount: more than $250,000

IBM is a founding member of MBRT, a coalition of leading employers—including business, government, and community organizations—that have made a commitment to support education reform and improve student achievement in Maryland. MBRT recognized the need to develop a network for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teachers to help them connect with industry practitioners willing to share their subject-matter experience in the classroom. IBM’s custom Impact Grant helped MBRT build the STEM Innovation Network, an online portal for connecting with these practitioners that also provides Maryland STEM teachers, as well as parents and students, with access to online resources.

Seniors Entrepreneurs

Grant: Social Media Strategy and Planning

Duration: three weeks

Amount: $35,000

Seniors Entrepreneurs is a Paris-based organization with a mission to foster mentoring relationships between older/retired professionals and young entrepreneurs. The group links young and older professionals to help develop key business skills and networks and to promote entrepreneurship. IBM was introduced to Seniors Entrepreneurs through AGE Platform Europe, a network of more than 30 million Europeans over 50, as part of the organization’s focus on active aging. IBM’s social media strategy and planning grant was given to help Seniors Entrepreneurs enable its members to understand social media as a key enabler for developing networks and attract funding.

Union for International Cancer Control

Grant: Customized Discovery

Duration: six months

Amount: $50,000

Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), based in Geneva, is dedicated to helping the global health community accelerate the fight against cancer. A discovery Impact Grant from IBM was given to help UICC conduct an initial assessment related to its initiatives in establishing cancer registries in low- and middle-income countries. The grant has helped UICC further its cancer registry agenda and analysis activity.

IBM Impact Grant Highlights in 2013

Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Recovery

When natural disaster strikes, the effectiveness of the response and the speed of recovery are dependent on the local government’s ability to help manage resources efficiently. At IBM, we strive to collaborate across our entire company to bring technology, expertise, and volunteers together to address all phases of disaster management. We place particular focus on the longer-term recovery efforts, where IBM’s tools can be most effective in building stronger, more prepared communities.

Over the past few years, the global picture of humanitarian disaster response has changed dramatically as events become more frequent and impact populations more severely, especially in countries less able to recover. And so we are transforming our disaster response activities to focus on the most critical global needs, with hopes of improving the overall efficiency of humanitarian response. We see IBM technology having the greatest potential to transform disaster management by actively addressing the collection, filtering, and integration of massive amounts of data from disparate sources during these disaster events and in sharing this information across relevant government and non-governmental organizations to enable better decision-making and planning. By being able to fuse and deploy multiple technologies, we believe we are expanding affected communities’ abilities to collaborate and coordinate relief efforts with better decision-making.

In 2013, as in past years, we continued to bring our many capabilities to people who needed them most.

Typhoon in the Philippines

The devastating typhoon in the Philippines last November brought with it massive humanitarian relief needs and a sense of urgency. IBM quickly responded by providing a grant to the Philippine government’s Department of Science and Technology to assist in response and recovery efforts and help improve their ability to deal effectively with future natural disasters. Within two weeks of the disaster, we deployed our Integrated Communications System, including RadioConnect for Sametime from UnifiedEdge, an IBM business partner. This technology enables cross-radio-frequency communications for first responders and emergency relief providers. At the same time, IBMers began deploying in Manila our Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) solution with emergency management capabilities, equipped with software from our business partner Priority 5 Holdings, Inc. The project was designed and implemented by a global team of consultants, technologists, and disaster experts working directly on the IOC system. This IOC provides emergency management capabilities in a technology framework to streamline and integrate government processes to help agencies perform better and deliver a unified, cohesive response. In all, 44 IBMers from four continents were involved, working with 24 people from the Philippine government. The grant has a market value of $3.5 million. We are planning an additional grant of technology and services to extend the capabilities of the IOC in support of disaster operations.

“IBM helped address the enormity of the crisis and used it as an opportunity to provide innovative technology to help our country respond. Building on a trusted, long-term relationship between IBM and our national government, IBM acted quickly to meet the need for better decision-making support and management of future disasters. IBM’s grant will ensure that we have the skills and expertise needed to fully maximize the power of this new technology to make Filipinos safer and more resilient to hazards such as Haiyan.” Mario G. Montejo, secretary, Philippine government’s Department of Science and Technology

During the same time period, we communicated with non-governmental organizations already operating in the Philippines, including the International Medical Corps and the American Red Cross, to identify areas where we can build on government initiatives and assistance.

The newly formed training and support team at IBM’s Intelligent Operation Center in Manila.

The newly formed training and support team at IBM’s Intelligent Operation Center in Manila.

New grant offerings

IBM created three new Impact Grant offerings designed specifically for use at the time of disaster. These grant offerings bring organizations tools they need during critical times to collaborate and coordinate relief and recovery efforts and help better prepare for future natural disaster events.

In addition to these efforts, IBM was part of global disaster relief and recovery activity following these 2013 events:

SafetyNet with Nonprofits

At IBM, we understand how essential the social services provided by private, nonprofit organizations are to supporting our most vulnerable citizens, especially in times of economic distress. We also realize that these nonprofits are constantly striving to deliver the most value possible to citizens, be it in areas related to jobs, health, education, recreation, or child or senior-citizen welfare. In order to support the ongoing improvement of social services, we are lending our expertise to transform how nonprofit organizations leverage data to improve services.

IBM has created software called SafetyNet with Nonprofits to help organizations use data to more effectively and efficiently meet their clients’ needs, resulting in cost savings and improved delivery of services. This software helps nonprofit workers quickly and easily access the data they need to gain a more complete view of their clients, giving them the ability to better customize and deliver the services needed. SafetyNet can also help reduce the amount of back-office tasks these workers must perform so they can focus more of their time and effort on programming. Because SafetyNet is based on open-source software and hosted in the cloud, vital information is accessible from any Internet-connected computing device.

With SafetyNet, nonprofits can pull together data from disparate sources to quickly generate detailed reports that document their progress and outcomes, making them more nimble and competitive in applying for new grants—some nonprofit users of SafetyNet have reported time savings of between 20 and 40 percent.

The SafetyNet application has been deployed as part of a pilot testing program to a handful of New York City nonprofit social service organizations called settlement houses. This type of agency has existed for more than 100 years and typically provides a gamut of services to entire families. In the United States, these organizations historically specialized in education and workplace assistance to socially and economically challenged immigrants, but their mission has expanded to disadvantaged families of all types.

With the deployment of SafetyNet, The Jacob Riis Settlement House has improved services to its clients, and improved its ability to respond to funders who request information on short notice to document the efficacy of its services. With the software, Riis is also able to better manage, track, and adjust client and family progress through multiple programs. The organization can now better compete for new funding and manage government contracts more easily. As a result, more effective and efficient services are delivered to its clients, along with tangible time and cost savings for the organization.

“IBM SafetyNet provides the hub of our information gathering, reporting, and program evaluation protocol. We are now able to respond to all data requests in a timelier manner with more accurate data. This has been very helpful in the reporting back and managing of government contracts. This was a true partnership where IBM came in and worked with our team to personalize and customize the product based on our particular needs, on our mission, and on our challenges.” Chris Hanway, executive director, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House

By sharing our expertise and technology, we believe we can help improve the delivery of a wide range of nonprofit services, increase collaboration between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and make a real difference in people's lives.

Chris Hanway, executive director of Jacob Riis Settlement House, talks about the impact of IBM’s SafetyNet application.