By Dustin Volz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s hardware development division on Wednesday announced a new partnership with Harvard, Princeton and 15 other universities intended to allow swifter collaboration on technology research projects.
The agreement between Facebook’s Building 8 and the universities comes as the social media company seeks to find new revenue streams in virtual reality and artificial intelligence, after the company signaled last month it had begun to hit some advertising growth limits on its network of 1.8 billion monthly active users.
Research partnerships between universities and companies typically take nine to 12 months to facilitate, but the new agreement will allow for collaboration on new ideas within weeks, said Regina Dugan, who joined the company in April to run the new Building 8 unit.
Dugan did not provide specifics to explain how the partnership will promote a quicker pace of research, but traditional negotiations between universities and companies can often take several months.
“When curiosity strikes, with this new agreement in place, Harvard researchers can initiate new projects with scientific colleagues at Facebook almost immediately,” Isaac Kohlberg, chief technology development officer at Harvard, said in a statement. “This agreement with Facebook recognizes that the most significant, transformative solutions will be informed by university science.”
Participating universities will receive payment from Facebook, a company spokesman said, declining to specify how much Facebook would pay.
Facebook has increasingly sought to find new revenue streams outside its traditional advertising model, but products such as its WhatsApp messaging app and Oculus Rift virtual reality headset currently generate little.
David Wehner, the company’s chief financial officer, said during a call with analysts last month that 2017 would be a year of aggressive investment with a substantial increase in expenses.
Other participating universities include Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Johns Hopkins University, Northeastern University, Rice, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-San Francisco, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Arizona State University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Waterloo in Canada.
(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)