Harvard Partners With Facebook For Tech Research

More than a decade after its founding in a Harvard dorm, Facebook is partnering with Harvard and 16 other universities in a research agreement that will allow Harvard faculty members and graduate students to work on tech projects with the social media giant.

Mark Zuckerberg 2004
Mark Zuckerberg works in his Kirkland dorm room in 2004, following the launch of thefacebook.com.
Regina E. Dugan, the Vice President of Engineering at Building 8—Facebook’s new research and development team—announced in late December that the company would team with universities to expedite joint research projects. Under the agreement, research can start “Not in the 9-12 months that’s typically required. But within weeks,” Dugan wrote in a Facebook post.

In a press release, Isaac T. Kohlberg, Harvard’s Chief Technology Development Officer and Senior Associate Provost, said that the partnership could impact research in specific technology fields like virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

“With this new agreement in place, Harvard researchers can initiate new projects with scientific colleagues at Facebook almost immediately,” Kohlberg said. “This agreement with Facebook recognizes that the most significant, transformative solutions will be informed by university science.”

The partnership, called the Sponsored Academic Research Agreement, will be open to faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers.

“We believe that both a product shipping team and access to the best research minds in the world are required for the development of breakthrough products,” Ha Thai, a Facebook spokesperson, wrote in an email.

Thai declined to describe specific projects eligible for the SARA, but said projects that fit Facebook’s mission—“to connect people from all over the world”—and involving hardware development could qualify.

According to Thai, the project is open to all interested universities. Seventeen schools, including MIT, Stanford, and Princeton have so far opted to join the partnership.

—Crimson staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at joshua.florence@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

—Crimson staff writer Mia C. Karr can be reached at mia.karr@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @miackarr.

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