Dr. Harrison is a director and distinguished engineer in IBM's Enterprise Initiatives team working on the cross-IBM technical coordination of the Smarter Cities offerings. He was the inventor of the Smarter Cities technical architecture, which grew out of 2007 work on Energy & Environment offerings and a technology assessment on the Instrumented Planet. During 2009 he was a principal contributor to establishing a global business team for Smarter Cities and for communicating the technical vision to IBM’s clients.
He was previously Director of Strategic Innovation in IBM's Integrated Technology Delivery in Europe and Director of Global Services Research in IBM's Research Division, where he held many leadership positions. Following his university studies in England and Germany, he spent 1972-77 at CERN in Geneva developing the SPS accelerator and its pioneering distributed real-time control system. He then returned to EMI Central Research Laboratories in London, and lead the development of the world's first clinically useful MRI system in 1978. He joined IBM in San Jose in 1979 and has enjoyed a career leading from micromagnetics to medical imaging, parallel computing, mobile networking, intelligent agents, telecommunications services, knowledge management, and now Smart Cities. 14 years of this time was spent in IBM Research, where from 1997 to 2001 he was the pioneer in developing Services Research. In October 2004 he was elected to the IBM Academy of Technology. In November 2004 he was made an IBM Master Inventor.
In the course of his career Dr Harrison has lead many technical innovations, including the first use of a distributed real-time control system at CERN, the clinical application of Magnetic Resonance Imaging in medicine (1978), mobile computing (1990), wireless data services (1992), network services (1994), and so forth. Among his many failed innovations are magnetic bubble memories (1980), creating a medical imaging business for IBM (1984), inventing the Worldwide Web two years too late (1992), and creating a Voice over IP business (1997). He believes that failure is an intrinsic part of the innovation process, since it drives questions. And questions are often more valuable than answers.