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Navigating Intel’s Future in Technology and Computing

Intel Innovator: Rich Uhlig, Intel senior fellow and managing director of Intel Labs

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Rich Uhlig, Intel senior fellow and managing director of Intel Labs, is shown in an Intel Labs workspace where neuromorphic computing is studied in Hillsboro, Oregon. (Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)
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Rich Uhlig, Intel senior fellow and managing director of Intel Labs, is shown with Intel Labs icon Robby the Robot in an Intel Labs workspace in Hillsboro, Oregon. (Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)
How he’d describe his job to a 10-year-old: “We explore the future.”

Digging out promising leads: Rich says the experts at Intel Labs – “We recruit the smartest people in key areas” – discover and research disruptive new forms of technology and computing, often through Intel’s academic investments. Rich and the 750 employees around the world who work with him then incubate the best ideas using Intel’s internal research and align them through a technology-transfer process to Intel’s business objectives. “We also alert the company when it’s time to pay attention to certain technology trends,” says Rich, whose areas of oversight include groundbreaking work on quantum, neuromorphic and probabilistic computing. “You need to have some kind of a disciplined way of teasing out the signal from the noise.”

More: Read about all Intel Innovators | Intel Labs (Press Kit)

Supporting customers inside and outside Intel’s walls: Inside Intel, Intel Labs experts provide business units and product teams with advanced technologies. Outside Intel, Rich says, experts from the labs often work with customers to lend expertise in specific technical areas. “This may help to secure a design win or to build confidence with customers that Intel has a deep technology pipeline out into the future,” he says. But Intel Labs’ outside work is more than just an added level of support. “We are also keen to play an active role in identifying new business opportunities for Intel,” he says. “As an example, we have a great collaboration with Intel Capital that we call ‘Start-up Pathfinding.’ The concept is that the labs identifies very early stage start-up companies that originate out of university research. When we find a promising start-up, we bring the opportunity to Intel Capital for early seed funding.”

Tapping a new kind of data: For years, Intel Labs researchers have recognized that data is not only exploding in quantity, but also changing in nature. “Data for many years has been about productivity data – spreadsheets, databases, Word docs, that kind of thing,” Rich says. “Then we went through a period of data increasingly becoming media-oriented and getting streamed out from centralized data centers.” But a few years ago, an entirely new class of data emerged. “We call it natural data. It’s getting collected out in the world from all the sensors that are blanketing the planet. We are carrying sensors in our pockets with our smart phones; cameras and microphones are getting embedded in the environments that we live and work. All that data collection creates new opportunities if we can manage to derive meaning and value from that data.”

His pro tip for a technology career: Rich, who has been at Intel for 23 years, offers this guidance for people moving into a tech career: “Most innovation comes at the intersection of domains. If you are an expert just in one specific area, the space is likely to be well explored. But if you work at the intersection of two or three areas, the probability that you’ll find something new is higher simply because there aren’t as many people or teams out there that can do the same.”

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