Facebook research lab signs rapid collaboration deal with 17 universities


Facebook’s shadowy Building 8 research facility needs help from academia to invent futuristic hardware. But today’s pace of innovation doesn’t allow for the standard 9-12 month turnaround time it takes universities to strike one-off research partnerships with private companies.

Enter SARA, aka Facebook’s “Sponsored Academic Research Agreement.” It’s a deal forged by Building 8 head Regina Dugan with 17 top universities to get collaboration on new projects started in just weeks or even days. SARA eliminates the need for time-consuming further negotiation and faculty approvals.

In return for their labor, the universities will be paid a fee by Facebook. They’ll also gain a focus for their research that will actually become a reality rather than staying theoretical.

Dugan tells TechCrunch, “With the SARA, B8/Facebook has created a universal agreement with terms that are project-by-project and designed to be fair and appropriate for universities. All university partners sign the same agreement, allowing Facebook to build the relationships quickly, and at scale.”

The full list of universities on board is: Stanford, MIT, Harvard University, Caltech, Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Rice, UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, Northeastern, Princeton, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Arizona State University, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, plus Canada’s University of Waterloo.

Facebook refused to say what these schools will help it work on. But some of the company’s advanced hardware projects include the Terragraph Wi-Fi nodes, Project ARIES antenna, Aquila solar-powered drone and its own connectivity-beaming satellite from its internet access initiative. There’s also Oculus’ wired and mobile VR headsets, and the Surround 360 camera. And in back-end infrastructure, it’s building an open rack network switch called Wedge, the Open Vault storage solution and sensors for the Telecom Infra Project’s OpenCellular platform.

Read the source article at TechCrunch