Ray Stata: Reaching Out To Third World Villagers

Oct. 20, 2003
Stata (2003)

Some people dream of what it would be like if third-world countries had the advantage of technology. Instead of dreaming, Ray Stata is doing something about it. Stata, founder of Analog Devices, is pushing technology into emerging nations like India, Africa, and in the Middle East. His goal is "to help bring the benefits of technology to the lives of the poorest people in developing countries like India." He's doing it by investing in enterprises that bring wireless technology and the Internet into villages.

The video kiosks help reduce the travel time involved with medical treatment. It often takes a day or two for villagers to travel to a city for medical care. Now, an eye hospital in India uses a video camera in a village kiosk to diagnose cataracts. "In one shot you can actually diagnose and set up an appointment" for the surgery, eliminating the need for the initial trip into the city, says Stata.

Many villagers are away from home for weeks or months at a time. By using video kiosks, they can stay in touch with their family. "Video communications will be an important factor in their lives. It's really happening and this model can prove it. A lot of good things will happen in the next couple of decades for billions of people who are not too well off," says Stata. Others have recognized his work in India. He was named Foreign Fellow of Indian National Academy of Engineering.

Stata has a good background for starting pioneering businesses. He has bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from MIT, but his initial start in the electronics field was in sales and marketing with Hewlett Packard. Shortly thereafter, he founded Solid State Instruments, which was bought out by Kollmorgen Corp.'s Inland Controls Division.

In 1965, Stata founded Analog Devices, today a leading manufacturer of high-performance analog, mixed-signal, and DSP chips. As a founder, he was responsible for the business strategy and the firm's product/technology roadmap. Analog Devices developed the first precision IC op amps, voltage references, temperature sensors, and analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters.

His skill was recognized this spring when IEEE named Stata the 2003 recipient of the IEEE Founders medal. He was awarded for his "leadership in the electronics industry through innovative technological development and visionary contributions in entrepreneurship, management, and education."

According to Stata, the pioneering technology done at his company can be credited to the hiring of top engineers and creating an environment "where people can do their thing." That means "providing as much freedom as you possibly can and still have a collective, common purpose and vision," he says. "Then you encourage them to do their best." A leader, he adds, has to understand human nature.

His constant interest in knowing and understanding what the foremost ideas were on management and leadership issues helped his business, too. "I'd look at what the leading-edge thinking was at the universities and translate that into applications at Analog Devices. This led us to being leaders in total quality management, and more recently to focus on how to accelerate leadership development in technology industries."

An Eye To The Future
Stata co-authored two books, Global Stakes: The Future of High Technology in America with James Botkin, John McClellan and Dan Dimancescu, and The Innovators: Rediscovering America's Creative Energy with Botkin and Dimancescu. He's also founder of the Center for Quality of Management and is chairman and founder of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, where he serves on its board of directors. He advocated funding engineering education via government and industry sources. Over 20 years ago, the MHTC began the "Two Percent Solution" contribution program, which encourages corporations to dedicate part of their R&D budgets to education. Stata chairs one of MHTC's outgrowths, the Engineering in Massachusetts Collaborative.

Looking back, Stata says his most important contribution to the engineering field was his sponsorship of laser-trimmed, IC-compatible thin films to achieve high-precision, monolithic analog IC circuits. If he had the opportunity to do it over, "I would have gotten more experience with Hewlett-Packard to avoid re-inventing the wheels. But, on the other hand, I may have missed the opportunity to launch Analog Devices. It all worked out for the best, but with a lot of hard work to compensate for lack of experience."

Stata says today's engineering challenge involves making more complicated systems on a chip—very complicated chips with short life cycles—and still have profitability. Looking at the industry as a whole, he's concerned about the increased outsourcing of the semiconductor industry to Asian countries. "Their tax structure provides subsidies. It costs billions of dollars to build these mega-fabs and we in the U.S. don't believe in corporate welfare. It's very hard to compete in that environment. It's something we should all be concerned about."

Back in Boston, Stata supports and enjoys a leader in a completely different arena, one that also recruits the brightest and best: the Boston Symphony. "Music is a source of great enjoyment. When I was in the farm country of Pennsylvania, I used to listen to it on the radio. When I got to Boston, the first thing I did was get the cheap student tickets to a rehearsal. I've gone ever since."

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