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Texas A&M tapped to join research-sharing project with Google - The Eagle: News

Texas A&M tapped to join research-sharing project with Google

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 10:33 am, Thu Sep 19, 2013.

Texas A&M is one of eight universities selected by technology giant Google for a groundbreaking research agreement.

Google subsidiary Motorola announced a multi-university research agreement on Wednesday morning that will streamline joint research projects by funneling company dollars to top researchers across the nation.

In addition to A&M, Motorola selected the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Virginia Tech for the partnership.

A&M is the only university in Texas to be selected and is one of only two located south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

"It shows Texas A&M is easily the best research university in the Southwest and the industry has spoken pretty clearly with this," said A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, who joked that Harvard was in good company. "Google could have picked anybody they wanted."

The deal was processed through the Texas A&M University System, and Sharp said the agreement gives Motorola access to researchers at all system universities and agencies. Still, he said, the flagship university in College Station was the focus of the talks and will likely handle the bulk of the research.

"Just from what we know about Google we have to think computer science and engineering will be a big part of it, but Google insisted that it be the entire university from liberal arts and everything else," Sharp said. "Every part of the university is eligible. They will come to us and tell us what they have a problem with, what they want researched and they'll fund it and our folks will try to solve the problem."

For about six months, corporate and university lawyers drafted a single agreement that all schools signed onto with the company. Officials said the collaboration is the first of its kind and will cut through red tape and expedite the research process as well as give Motorola the ability to coordinate research across the nation's top universities. Officials boast that the partnership will allow research projects to get off the ground in less than 30 days.

If successful, the collaboration is expected to be a new model for public-private research partnerships.

A system spokesman said a copy of the agreement was not immediately available Wednesday evening, but confirmed that Google has the option to negotiate exclusive licensing of a technology for particular uses that it has funded through the partnership.

Motorola spokesman Gabe Madway would not comment on the type of research the company was interested in or how much money it would put behind it. He said the contracted research at the universities is intended to supplement, and not replace, in-house research by the company.

Madway said the technology giant sought out world-class public and private research universities.

The agreement was brokered through Motorola Mobility's Advanced Technology and Projects group, or ATAP.

"When we started six months ago, people told us we were crazy … that this couldn't be done. But we found power in the similarity of our goal -- to do great work, faster, and with fewer barriers -- and a group of committed individuals made it so," Regina E. Dugan, senior vice president and director of ATAP, said in a press release.

If Motorola's recent projects are any indication, A&M will be tapped for cutting-edge research and development. At a May technology conference, Dugan showed off a prototype electronic tattoo and a pill that when digested is fueled by stomach acid to create an 18-bit signal in a person's body, which can be read by electronic devices.

Sharp said Motorola employees are traveling to College Station on Monday for meet-and-greets and that more information on the specific type of collaborations should be available soon.

Joshua Lamel, vice president of The Computer and Communications Industry Association, said the announcement is a boon for Texas A&M.

"It creates a relationship between Motorola, a Chicago-based company with a Silicon Valley-based parent in Google, and College Station," Lamel said. "That is a very good thing. It makes it more likely that the company will invest resources in College Station and make it a home for something like their Gig project."

One of the biggest benefits to Texas A&M, Lamel said, is prestige.

"Anytime you're Texas A&M and you can get grouped with Carnegie Mellon, Harvard and MIT, that is a wonderful thing for their brand," he said.

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