Earlier this year, I participated in an industry focus group where we were asked the following question: “What is the number one opportunity for microwave technology and who is in the best position to capitalize on it?” My knee jerk response was to offer a short list of hot markets, including 4G, mobile internet, M2M, aerospace and defense, etc.  In contrast, the technically-inclined members of the group saw opportunity from a completely different perspective. For them,opportunity was the chance to utilize spectrum more efficiently or to get more functionality into a smaller component.

It was an eye-opening moment for me, the realization that engineers view problems as opportunities. Besides being a great personality trait, it is a point of view that has widespread ramifications. While the promise of financial reward from future markets may fund R&D, it is technical advancement that creates markets and it is those who see problems as opportunities that lead the way. Rethinking the question, I now side with those who say the greatest opportunity in our field belongs to whoever can pack the most RF/microwave functionality into the smallest footprint (and I’ll add “lowest cost” to the wish list). Miniaturization and integration have always been the leading technical goals for our industry and the International Microwave Symposium (IMS) is a great opportunity to assess where we are in that quest.

IMS has two major components, namely the technical conferences and the exhibition. In terms of size and quality, the technical program is unparalleled in its focus on microwave technology. How good are the technical papers presented at IMS? In our November 2011 cover story, the Journal reported on the industry’s leading innovations. Our list of the top ten innovations of 2011 was compiled largely by cross-referencing three sources – twelve months of Microwave Journal editorial and the technical programs from IMS and European Microwave Week. If it is new and significant, it will be in the IMS technical program. Overviews of this year’s technical programs are featured in this month’s welcome messages from the IMS, RFIC and ARFTG chairs.

Of course the other component to IMS is the exhibition. This spring, many of you will be attending your share of industry-related trade shows or preparing new products to be introduced at these events. Some shows will be focused around a specific market/industry such as Mobile World Congress (see MWJ International Editor, Richard Mumford’s show wrap-up in this issue, pg. 106) or CTIA Wireless. These are large events (40,000+ attendees) in which RF/microwave technology plays a small but critical part in the overall event eco-system. But the exhibition at IMS is all about our technology – the latest microwave components, subsystems, test solutions and software products.

For a preview of what will be on display, check out this issue’s new IMS Product Showcase, pg. 250. This year, we are trying out a bold experiment to enhance the Microwave Journal user experience. Showing a bias to those folks that will be at the exhibition, we have organized products by their location on the exhibition floor rather than by product category. So when an attendee is standing in aisle 1500 for example, Microwave Journal will tell them what new products are nearby. The full exhibitor list with booth number (companies whose advertisements appear in this issue are in red) and the show floor map (pg. 248) directly precede the new products section to help readers locate specific companieswithout having to rifle through the entire magazine. And to add in a little fun, play this month’s puzzler (pg. 282) – the new IMS Products Scavenger Hunt and bring the completed puzzle to our booth (#2018) to be entered into a daily prize drawing.

As an event that travels to different locations each year, IMS is also about its host city. And this year, the MTT-S is celebrating its 60th year by holding the symposium outside the U.S., truly living up to its “International” title. Montréal is a beautiful city, within driving range from many East Coast cities and hopefully a powerful draw for the international audience that the society is aiming to attract. The Journal celebrates this location with our latest graphic novel, “Montréal Road Trip 2012”– a salute to those of you pulling late hours to get new products ready in time for the event.

Also, this month’s cover story pays tribute to the region’s technical roots with a look at the rise and fall of former Canadian telecommunication giant, Nortel. This is a fascinating story of the vision and innovation that made this company a powerhouse during the dot com bubble and helped establish the Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto technology belt as world class.

Since the days when Ted Saad served as this magazine’s first editor and was instrumental in creating the MTT-S, our two organizations have enjoyed a close and personal relationship. As an IMS media partner, it is a pleasure to support the event through our extended coverage and we thank the organizers for the opportunity to interact with attendees through the Cyber Café, the Device Characterization & Design Expert Panel at MicroApps and Strategy Analytics’ “RF Market Opportunities for GaN” Panel. Congratulations to the MTT-S on turning 60 and we will see all of you problem solvers looking for opportunities in the Great White North.