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Dr. John E. Kelly III

Senior Vice President, Solutions Portfolio and Research


Full biography

As IBM senior vice president, solutions portfolio and research, Dr. John E. Kelly III is focused on the company’s investments in several of the fastest-growing and most strategic parts of the information technology market. His portfolio includes IBM Analytics, IBM Commerce, IBM Security and IBM Watson, as well as IBM Research and the company’s Intellectual Property team. He will also oversee the development of future units devoted to serving clients in specific industries, beginning with IBM Healthcare later this year.

In this role, Dr. Kelly’s top priorities are to stimulate innovation in key areas of information technology and to bring those innovations into the marketplace quickly; to apply these innovations to help IBM clients succeed; and to identify and nurture new and future areas for investment and growth. He works closely with the leaders of these new units to drive business development, accelerate technology transfer and invest for the future. 

Dr. Kelly was most recently senior vice president and director of IBM Research, only the tenth person to hold that position over the past seven decades. Under Dr. Kelly, IBM Research expanded its global footprint by adding four new labs (including IBM’s first in Africa, South America and Australia), creating a network of approximately 3,000 scientists and technical employees across 12 laboratories in 10 countries. 

During his tenure, IBM maintained and extended what is now 22 straight years of patent leadership. Most notably, Dr. Kelly and his team were responsible for advancing the science of cognitive computing through his support for Watson, the groundbreaking system that defeated two standing Jeopardy world champions in 2011.  He also led the strategy, negotiations and signing of a definitive agreement to transition IBM’s semiconductor business to Global Foundries, while maintaining a commitment to leading-edge microelectronics research.

Prior to joining IBM Research in July of 2007, Dr. Kelly was senior vice president of Technology and Intellectual Property, responsible for IBM’s technical and innovation strategies.

Dr. Kelly joined IBM in 1980.  Between 1980 and 1990, he held numerous management and technical positions related to the development and manufacturing of IBM’s advanced semiconductor technologies.  In 1990, he was named director of IBM’s Semiconductor Research and Development Center.   Between 1994 and 2000, Dr. Kelly held several VP and GM positions across IBM’s businesses.  In 2000, Dr. Kelly was named senior vice president and group executive for IBM’s Technology Group, where he was responsible for developing, manufacturing and marketing IBM’s microelectronics and storage technologies, products and services.

Dr. Kelly received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Union College in 1976.  He received a Master of Science degree in physics from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1978 and his Doctorate in materials engineering from RPI in 1980.  He has also received two honorary Doctoral degrees.

Dr. Kelly is Chairman of the Board of Governors of the IBM Academy of Technology, a member of the Board and immediate past Chairman of the Semiconductor Industry Association, a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a member of the Board of the New York Academy of Sciences.  He also serves on the Boards of Trustees for Union College and RPI. 

Dr. Kelly has received numerous technical and business leadership awards, including the Semiconductor Industry’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award.  He has been recognized with the IEEE’s top award for R&D management, the Frederik Philips Award, as well as the IEEE’s own Robert N. Noyce Award.  In October 2013, he received the National Academy of Engineering’s Arthur M. Bueche Award for his leadership in driving U.S. semiconductor technology excellence through broad government, university, and corporate collaboration.

He has published numerous technical papers and recently published the book Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing with writer Steve Hamm on Columbia University Press.

January 2015