Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Industrial R&D + Academic Research = MOAR Future!

A little less than than a year ago, I transfered to a new group within Motorola called Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) which was setup after the Google acquisition of Motorola last year (yes, Google owns Motorola now).

The person hired to run this new group is Regina Dugan, who was previously the director of the Defense Advanced Research and Projects Agency (DARPA). This is the same organization that funded projects such as ARPANET, the DARPA Grand Challenge, Mother of All Demos, Big Dog, CALO (which evolved into Apple's Siri), Exoskeletons, and Hypersonic Vehicles that could reach any point on earth in 60 minutes.

It's a place with big ideas powered by big science.

The philosophy behind Motorola ATAP is to create an organization with the same level of appetite for technology advancement as DARPA, but with a consumer focus. It is a pretty interesting place to be.

One of the ways DARPA was capable of having such a impressive portfolio of projects is because they work heavily with outside research organizations in both industry and academia.  If you talk to a university professor or graduate student in engineering, there is a very good chance their department has a DARPA funded project.  However, when companies want to work with universities, it has always been notoriously difficult to get through the paperwork of putting research collaborations in place due to long legal discussions over IP ownership and commercialization terms lasting several months.

To address this issue head on, ATAP created a Multi-University Research Agreement (MURA). A single document that every university partner could sign to accelerate the collaboration between ATAP and research institutions, reducing the time to engage academic research partners from several months to a couple weeks. The agreement has been signed by Motorola, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Tech.  As we engage more research partners, their signatures will be added to the same document.

"The multi-university agreement is really the first of its kind," said Kaigham J. Gabriel, vice president and deputy director of ATAP. "Such an agreement has the potential to be a national model for how companies and universities work together to speed innovation and US competitiveness, while staying true to their individual missions and cultures."

This may seem a little dry.  But to me, what it means is that I can approach some of the smartest people in the country and ask, "do you want to build the future together?" and all they have to say is, "yes."

Let's do it.

Full press release here.


Ricardo said...

Hey man, we were missing you!
Nice initiative by ATAP.
So, let's create the future!

Carlos Martins said...

Can't even imagine what you guys might be doing in there.

Maybe you can give us a hint from time to time? ;)