Thursday 29 December 2016

Facebook to Scoop (?) New Ideas in Partnership with Leading Research Universities

In an intriguing post, co-Blogger Neil Wilkof recently discussed how essentially elite firms may be beating the competition.  In a recent article on Reuters titled “Facebook Forges Agreement with 17 Universities to Streamline Research,” Dustin Volz discusses how Facebook has entered into partnerships (which includes unstated funding) with 17 major research institutions, including Harvard, Stanford and MIT, for the opportunity to work together on forthcoming research.  The article is a little light on details concerning the agreements.  As I described Steve Blank's discussion in an earlier post, some firms have placed outposts in technology innovation hotbeds to track new cutting edge developments and companies.  For sure, the nimble survive and those who are not do not—see Kodak.  However, Facebook may be strategically moving one step forward by starting at the source of some of the new major developments.  This arguably gives Facebook the “first” opportunity to scoop up new research and ideas as they develop in leading research universities.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing for innovation and importantly competition? 

The Reuters article states that:

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.

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