Innovation Comes Full Circle as Engineers Bring Ideas, Enthusiasm to Broadcom Technical Confab

Academics and Ted Talk-goers alike love a good brainstorm. The thought is this: Get a lot of smart people together to hash out new ideas, and surely, all that cerebral electricity is bound spark an idea that no one’s had the gumption to try — at least not yet.

Broadcom’s Henry Samueli looks over the research project of an electrical engineering graduate student at last year’s competition.

It’s in this same spirit that Broadcom hosts a Technical Conference near its Irvine, Calif., headquarters. The company gathers up its top engineers from around the world for a two-day-long series of lectures that culminate in awards recognizing the best and the brightest contributors, inventors and innovators among its ranks.

More than just a corporate retreat, in some ways the Technical Conference is a nod to Broadcom Co-founder, Chairman and Chief Technical Officer Henry Samueli’s academic roots. A Ph.D. and former University of California, Los Angeles, electrical engineering professor, Samueli — who started Broadcom more than 20 years ago — values higher education and the edge new thinking brings to Broadcom’s engineers.

With blue sky discussion topics such as “The Future of Wi-Fi” and “Hardware without Hardware,” and more earth-bound ones such as “High Performance Switch Silicon for Evolving Data Center Fabrics,” the annual event is sure to inspire Broadcom’s engineers anew.

The Technical Conference will feature a core program that supports the continuing education of future engineers, the Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition, which aims to showcase engineering research that will impact society at large.

The Foundation hosts a dozen graduate-level engineering students from prestigious universities across the globe — some hail from as far as Tel Aviv University in Israel and others, closer to home — to present their research to experts at Broadcom and compete for cash prizes. The competitors are picked from the universities that receive unrestricted research gifts from the Broadcom Foundation.

“They are pushing the boundaries of research and it’s exciting to see where we could be somewhere in the future,” said David Garrett, associate technical director, DSP Microelectronics in the office of the CTO at Broadcom.

The students are given a few minutes onstage to give their “elevator pitch” and then will be judged by conference attendees on a set of criteria that gauges their technological prowess and communications skills. On June 6, the Broadcom Foundation is awarding the first prize winner with $10,000, the second prize winner with $5,000 and the third prize winner with $2,500 to continue their research.

Broadcom Foundation Director Paula Golden and Nick Alexopolous, vice president of antenna and RF Research and University Relations, with a 2012 competitor.

According to Broadcom’s Garrett, who sits on the selection committee for the Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition, the engineers get as much out of the event as the students do.

“We are very technically focused – that’s the way that you win in this market,” he said. “This is a way to be involved with the research community and see the ideas coming five years down the road. And it encourages us to consider the innovative work and push that enthusiasm back into our own roles.”

The Technical Conference is set to wrap up with a gala event where Samueli will unveil Broadcom’s most prestigious honor to a select fellowship of engineers who have demonstrated tremendous expertise, leadership, and creativity in furthering the company’s technical legacy.

Stay tuned on the blog for more stories and photos from this year’s Technical Conference and University Research Competition, and for the unveiling of Broadcom’s engineering honorees.