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23 Dec 2010

Innovations Should be More Practical, Less Political. COFES-Israel Forum Report

David Levin

The COFES (Congress on the Future of the Engineering Software) events that are annually held in April in Arizona by Cyon Research are quite well known as probably the only international multi-vendor conference with no direct marketing flavor. If you donít know COFES visit This year the main global conference was complemented by two regional forums: in Moscow (in September) and in Tel Aviv, Israel (last week).

The Forum was attended by about 80 people who represented all CAD/CAM market leaders and a lot of interesting companies as well as analytical agencies.

Brad Holtz, the president of Cyon Research and COFES, insisted that the COFES-Israel should be opened at 8:43 (43 but not 45) to discipline the attendees.

The opening session started with a welcoming speech of Joel Orr, the Chief Visionary of Cyon Research.

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Here in Israel there was no need in simultaneous or any other translation which, by contrast, in Moscow was implemented by three skillful translators who worked hard almost all the day long. One mobile microphone was sufficient to give the audience opportunities to put questions to the speakers, this microphone was moved along the room by Brad Holtz who perfectly managed the sessions and personally asked a lot of questions.

There were fourteen 12-minutes talks (including opening and concluding speeches) sectioned into four sessions. 45-minute breaks enabled some interesting informal meetings, for example I succeeded to talk to those 5 persons with whom I had had plans to meet. Condensed format of both forums in Russia and Israel could not provide time for one of the key points of the Arizona COFES, its possibility to talk during outdoor walks. Here in Hilton Tel-Aviv the outdoor could be implemented by coming out to the terrace and feel envy to those relaxing on the beach Ė which was especially exciting for those who came to Israel from snowy and frosty countries.

The topic of COFES Israel Forum was specified as "On Software for Innovation and Sustainable Design for Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction, and Industry". The talks outlined a lot of aspects of Innovation & Sustainability.

The first speaker, Eitan Yudilevich, Executive Director, BIRD Foundation (ISRAEL), talked about fostering innovations by providing effective support of Israeli start-ups and bridging them with (big) US companies.

Eitan Yudilevich

Sometimes such support can be materialized during a couple months. The speaker was asked whether BIRD supports a kind of brain drain and thus causes some damage to Israel. Eitan has exclaimed very excitedly: "No, you are wrong, itís absolutely false!" and then explained that BIRDís activity results in creating first-class offices of the large global companies in Israel, attracting big investments in the countryís economy, generating a lot of high-qualification working places, materializing important innovations, and other.

Michael Morein, Senior Consultant, Cambashi (UK) outlined the company report on the International Software Market. The analysis related to the product, country, industry, and employment observations. This slide demonstrates a forecast for 2011 which integrates data about countries and industries.

With an idea that some of the Cambashi reports would be interesting for the Russian readers of I discussed with Michael some variants of partnership.

A talk of Chris De Neef, Managing Director, Fast Track Consulting (BELGIUM) was one of the most interesting for me.

Chris spoke about where and how we should look for innovations and stimulate them. He said that effective solutions are often found by means of profound analogy with solutions from very different domains. Chris demonstrated slides with pairs of products taken from such different domains and asked questions as "Why would a Truck Seat and an X-Ray Scanner ever meet?" or "What do Kraft Cheese and Goodyear Tires have in common?" For the latter one, the audience answered "Smell!" :).

Then Chris presented five levels of processes to create solutions and products: (1) solutions easily found and almost standard solutions, (2) solutions found within a spacific sector or industry, (3) another sector or industry, (4) another discipline of science, (5) a new, so far inexistent scientific concept.

"Do you want innovations? Then look not at your current clients, look at those who are not your clients!" Ė added Chris. He also said that by 2050 the world population will grow to 9 billion and 99% of this increase will be in developing countries that will mainly contribute into the global growth: all these people are not your current clients! The final slide quoted a wise statement: "From now on, all innovation will be social, because business cannot survive in a society that fails".

The next session started by a talk of Tal Weiss, Site R&D Director, Autodesk (Israel).

On the day before the Forum, together with some of the attendees, I had a chance to visit Talís office in Tel-Aviv and could catch some formal and informal details. You can read a related post in my Russian blog or at least catch there some impressions from the pictures.

Talís story can serve as an example of how innovations can succeed:

  • The idea of CAD on the web came to the founders when they were in the army (2006),
  • After the military service they founded the VisualTAO Company (2007),
  • Very soon they got considerable support from an Israeli fund (2007-2008),
  • At the end of 2009, they were acquired by Autodesk which renamed the product into Butterfly and then into AutoCAD WS.

Tal briefly told this story and finished with a comment about a huge number of AutoCAD WS downloads: "Judging by this number, I can conclude: customers are ready to use new, innovative products".

Zvi Feuer, Vice-President, Industry Business Group, Siemens PLM Software, started with a forecast of a global economic development by 2050.

He said that nobody will be happy if the lag with developing countries would remain the same as today. Then Zvi switched into PLM and stated something which I perceived as "Itís only PLM that can save the global situation!". The speaker made an interesting comparison of approaches to PLM in different regions: In Europe or Israel, people say: "Do not teach us to make products, teach us to apply PLM" while in China they ask: "Do not teach us PLM, teach us to make products!". I was not very much surprised to hear the final phrase that only Siemens has full scale PLM solutions...

Andreas Vlahinos, Principal, Advanced Engineering Solutions, amazed the audience by a remarkable (in technical and content aspects) slides-clips that demonstrated comparative dynamics of GDP/capita for various world regions. In a couple weeks all forum presentations will be available for the attendees and hopefully certain variants of those slides could be made available for everybody.

Meg Selfe, Vice President, Rational Software, IBM, has again brightly demonstrated how IBMís approach is global and universal.

The technology of systems engineering seems to relate to whatever systems one can think of! Meg justified such approach of IBM by a statement that best-in-class product & service companies are those that build a strong competency in systems engineering. Then she gave data (surprisingly precise) that characterize leading products: best-in-class produce results: 19% more likely to meet revenue targets than the industry average, 4.4x more embedded software than competitors, 50% fewer defects in embedded software, 25% decrease in product development time.

Ping Fu, CEO, Geomagic, characterized the future of software engineering (open data, start with person not an object, social machines, free bandwidth) and then demonstrated exiting examples of some solutions from Geomagic: transforming results of scanning (clouds of points) into effectively operable geometry (official formula says that Geomagic provides 3D software for creating digital models of physical objects for reverse engineering, product design, rapid prototyping and analysis).

Such results can be considered as a good example of innovative solutions. Moreover I believe that Ping Fu herself is an example of an innovative person: she "was the Director of Visualization at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, where she initiated and managed the NCSA Mosaic software project that led to Netscape and Internet Explorer. She has more than 20 years of software industry experience in database, networking, geometry processing, and computer graphics".

Unfortunately I almost missed a presentation of Allan Behrens, Managing Director, Taxal and hope to fill in this gap when the forum presentations will be available. Allan is one of the well-known analysts of CAD/PLM and his name is associated with Cambashi.

I agree with Oleg Shilovitsky (whose posts about COFES Israel I definitely recommend to read) that a presentation of Brian Shepherd, Executive Vice President, PTC, was one of the most interesting. The key point of the talk was a problem of packaging: how to develop a product which maximally fits real requirements of real users. Brian showed this slide

and said that a universal knife could probably be used only by Leonardo da Vinchi, while a lot of common people (users) need only to open beer. Then Brian has briefly outlined how groups of products and groups of users should be technologically and methodologically coordinated. Now guess, which CAD/PLM technology was mentioned by Brian as the most effective? You are true: itís Creo. Maybe.

Fielder Hiss, Vice President of Product Management, Dassault Systemes SolidWorks, spoke about implications from current trends of IT development: computing becomes a utility, you become your office, the world becomes your design team.

Fielder also listed some benefits of sustainability: increased sales, decreased costs, new products/markets, improved quality, decreased risk, attract and retain talents, preferred supplier, and enhanced reputation. Finally, Filder hinted that SolisWorks plans to provide access to its products for all up-to-date devices and in all variants of computation services.

Jon Peddie, President, Jon Peddie Research reminded a well-known metaphor of Ray Bradbury: when you kill a butterfly you can substantially impact subsequent history of the mankind.

Jon concentrated on the current rapid development of parallel processors and indicated the danger of the lazy. "If you and your IT-staff and you application supplier are lazy or too intimidated by technological challenge of parallel processing then you will not be able to run your design simulations, within your time and money budget, and get the most sustainable design. Here is your butterfly moment".

In his concluding remarks, Brad Holtz characterized further COFES plans: for sure the next key event will be the full-scale 3-day COFES-2011 conference "Innovations in the Face of Complexity" in Arizona.

Brad also mentioned COFES-Russia-2012 but we have not yet discussed this.

As one of the organizers of COFES-Russia-2010, whether intentionally or not, I tried to compare the forums in Moscow and in Tel-Aviv. Here are some remarks.

  1. The events were basically different: in Moscow we wanted to outline the 3-day COFES format within a single day, and I believe we were right: our seven working groups as well as discussions were mostly fruitful.
  2. The COFES Israel presentations were much more homogeneous, they were much more skillfully, than in Moscow, combined the focus topic of the event and its illustration by own vendor and analytical results of the speakers.
  3. In Moscow we practically all time had simultaneous or other translation, lack of its necessity is obviously a serious facilitation.
  4. The technology of COFES-events is very effective and remarkably polished.
  5. And probably the most important. Today in Russia, the topic of innovation is politically loaded, it goes top down and is mainly monopolized by the state. Therefore, people in labs and in small companies who practice innovation (automatically - according to the fundamentals of Russian culture) consider and interpret innovation ironically if not worse. However no politics, profanation, or irony can cancel processes objectively demanded by society and history. Iíd prefer to see a situation in Russia when practioners consider innovation as not only politics and discuss such topics more seriously and pragmatically.

At the same time, I donít want to be considered naïve. Obviously such general and global topics like innovation, independently on countries, are inevitably politicized and give opportunities for additional profits to politicians and analysts: be it materialized or reputational or other. Really important is what then happens with innovation itself...

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