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Facebook, Virginia Tech sign research agreements

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Virginia Tech and Facebook have signed an agreement that will remove barriers and make it easier to work together on future research projects.

It’s one of 17 such arrangements, called sponsored academic research agreements that Facebook executive Regina Dugan announced Wednesday.

Other participating institutions include Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

In a Facebook post announcing the news, Dugan wrote that the partnerships should allow her team to find university researchers and get to work solving high-tech problems in a matter of weeks, instead of months or years.

For Tech, the agreement represents an opportunity to work hand-in-hand with some of the biggest names in the technology industry.

It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday what types of projects will be coming to Blacksburg, but the agreement covers Facebook’s shadowy division known as Building 8.

Dugan, a Virginia Tech graduate, leads the team. She reports directly to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and oversees hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for some of the toughest — and most secretive — research projects, involving technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

“Facebook’s tremendous reach — its influence on how we communicate today — has profound implications,” Tech President Timothy Sands wrote in a news release announcing the deal. “We welcome the opportunity for joint-technology research with them.”

Sands has previously said these types of arrangements will be one of his major focuses as he tries to build stronger bonds between university researchers and private companies.

Tech announced a similar partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise in October and Lockheed Martin in November.

Hewlett Packard took the partnership one step further, opening an office in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center as its way of “planting a flag” in Blacksburg.

“These agreements are critical,” Theresa Mayer, Virginia Tech’s vice president for research and innovation, said in Wednesday’s news release.

“New technologies are being developed at [a] rapid pace. To be effective partners, companies and universities must be nimble enough to respond quickly to new opportunities.”

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Paul

The author Paul