Facebook partners with 17 top high-tech universities, including University of Waterloo

Facebook's hardware development division has announced a new partnership with Universities of Waterloo, Harvard, Princeton and 14 other universities intended to allow swifter collaboration on technology research projects.

Facebook looking for new revenue streams in virtual reality and artificial intelligence

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during his keynote address at Facebook F8 in San Francisco, California March 25, 2015. Facebook is looking for new revenue streams in virtual reality and artificial intelligence, which in part explains its partnership with 17 top high-tech North American universities. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

Facebook's hardware development division has announced a new partnership with the University of Waterloo, Harvard, Princeton and 14 other universities intended to allow swifter collaboration on technology research projects.
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.

'Transformative solutions' informed by 'university science'

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.

"It's an opportunity to work with Facebook in areas where the university is already very strong: artificial intelligence, cyber security, big data analysis, internet of things, all kinds of exciting area we might potentially partner with Facebook," Mike Szarka, director of research partnerships at the University of Waterloo, told CBC News.

He said UW was chosen as the only Canadian university because of its experience - it has the largest electrical engineering faculty in Canada and the largest school of computer science in North America.

"We have a global reputation in a lot of areas that are of interest to Facebook," Szarka said.

Harvard researchers are prepared to "initiate new projects with scientific colleagues at Facebook almost immediately," Isaac Kohlberg, chief technology development officer at Harvard, said in a statement.

"This agreement with Facebook recognizes that the most significant, transformative solutions will be informed by 
university science."

Participating universities will receive payment from Facebook, a company spokesman said, declining to specify how 
much Facebook would pay.

MIT, Johns Hopkins also involved

Facebook has increasingly sought to find new revenue streams outside its traditional advertising model, but products such as its WhatsApp messaging app and Oculus Rift virtual reality headset currently generate little.

 David Wehner, the company's chief financial officer, said during a call with analysts last month that 2017 would be a year of aggressive investment with a substantial increase in expenses.

Other participating universities include Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Johns Hopkins University, Northeastern University, Rice, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-San Francisco, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Arizona State University and Texas A&M University.

with files from Kate Bueckert, CBC