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Intel on Wednesday said it will invest $100 million toward research aimed at developing computer technologies, particularly visual computing, at universities in the U.S.
Intel's funding will set up several Intel Science and Technology Centers over the next five years. The first ISTC, located at Stanford University, close to Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., will focus on visual computing.
Intel Labs, the chipmaker's academic research division, will foster collaboration with academia by providing researchers in the U.S. with up to five times more funding than it has previously, while encouraging collaboration between universities, Intel said. The goal is to ultimately create a distributed collaborative center with Stanford and Intel as the hub and the participation of institutions such as U.C. Irvine, U.C. Davis, U.C. Berkeley, University of Washington, as well as Cornell, Princeton, Harvard universities.
In a conference call on Wednesday, Intel CTO Justin Rattner said Intel is looking to raise the bar by increasing investment in what he called "the information economy." He said Intel believes in driving economic recovery by investing during downturns.
"The universities have been hard hit, and there have been major cutbacks in both public and private universities," Rattner said. "Intel wants to do its part to help them get beyond the recession, toward recovery."
Intel will limit its investment to U.S. universities for the foreseeable future but plans to enable broader engagement across a number of academic institutions, Rattner said. .
"The first of these centers at Stanford will reach out and touch seven universities with a particular focus on visual computing technologies," Rattner said. "The primary goal is to drive improvement in the user experience, with a whole variety of user devices that will emerge over the decade." In preparation for this investment, Intel Labs has begun funding open collaboration centers near research universities, each of which will receive $2.5 million in funding annually over the next five years, which Rattner said will go directly toward faculty, graduate students and full-time researchers. That figure does not include any of the Intel researchers who will be affiliated with these institutions, as part of Intel's commitment to bridging what Rattner called a "gap" between academic research and the market for technology. Rattner later gave the example of Google, which began at Stanford, and has since had tremendous commercial success.
"We want to create a climate for research to make an impact on technology. So often great ideas never go from the academic setting into the market," Rattner said. "We want to install that sense of community in each of these institutions."