Virginia Tech is one of 17 institutions to have signed Facebook’s sponsored academic research agreement, known as SARA. The agreement streamlines the process for joint technology projects between the commonwealth’s most comprehensive research university and the one of the world’s leading technology companies.

“Virginia Tech is excited to partner with Facebook,” university President Tim Sands said. “In keeping with our land-grant mission, we emphasize innovation with an eye toward bringing knowledge into communities around the world. Facebook’s tremendous reach—its influence on how we communicate today—has profound implications. We welcome the opportunity for joint-technology research with them.”

Facebook reported 1.79 billion monthly active users as of September 30.  The SARA was created by Facebook’s Building 8 team, which focuses on scientific research and product development. The team is led by Regina Dugan, who formerly headed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Dugan earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology.

In a Dec. 21 post, Dugan said the SARA “is designed to make it easier and faster for (Building 8) to work with university researchers. Not in the 9-12 months that’s typically required. But within weeks.”

Others involved in the initiative are Arizona State; California Institute of Technology; Georgia Tech; Harvard; Johns Hopkins; Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Northeastern; Princeton; Rice; Stanford; Texas A&M; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, San Francisco; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and University of Waterloo.

Virginia Tech Vice President for Research and Innovation Theresa Mayer said agreements such as the one with Facebook are essential to effective collaboration between industry and higher education. She said Virginia Tech has made it a priority to reach agreements with a variety of leading companies. In November, the university announced it had reached such an agreement with Lockheed Martin.

“These agreements are critical,” Mayer said. “New technologies are being developed at rapid pace. To be effective partners, companies and universities must be nimble enough to respond quickly to new opportunities.”

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