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HP, MIT Join In Alliance For $25M

By Naveen Sunkavally


Continuing a dizzying trend of alliances with corporations and other prominent institutions, MIT has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hewlett-Packard, Co. to create a five-year, $25 million partnership for the development of digital information systems.

The alliance was announced last Friday, the same day that HP Chief Executive Officer Carly S. Fiorina ’89 gave the keynote address at Commencement.

“We’re looking forward to the final agreement in the summer,” said Institute Professor Thomas L. Magnanti, dean of the School of Engineering.

Many projects already ongoing

A portion of the $25 million has already been allocated for projects, said Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Harold Abelson PhD ’73, who participated in the negotiations with HP.

Some of the projects which have already begun include the Oxygen project at the Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the digital archives in conjunction with MIT Libraries, and work at the Media Lab and the Sloan School Center for eBusiness@MIT.

“We don’t know where the rest of [the money] is going to go,” Abelson said.

“The general topic is digital information services,” Magnanti said. Students will be participating and have already participated a considerable amount, Magnanti said.

Commencement speech for sale?

The coupling of the signing of the memorandum of understanding and Fiorina’s speech fueled speculation that perhaps the commencement speaker was part of the $25 million deal. However, both Abelson and Magnanti said that the negotiations have gone on for a long time and that the alliance was independent of the choice for commencement speaker.

“They were really independent,” Magnanti said. “We used the occasion of her being here to sign the agreement. No deals were made or anything like that.”

“The only way it was tied was ... [in the idea that it] would be nice to have negotiations complete by the time she’s here,” Abelson said.

Trend of corporate funding

MIT’s most recent agreement with HP is one in a considerable list that MIT has recently formed. Last October, MIT partnered with Microsoft Research Corp. in a similar 5-year, $25 million agreement initiative called Project I-Campus. On January 1, MIT’s agreement with DuPont for $35 million, also over five years, went into action. MIT also recently partnered with Nanovation Technologies, Inc. in a $90 million, six-year agreement.

Last November, MIT formed a $135 million partnership with Cambridge University in Great Britain. The Cambridge-MIT Institute program will pilot this fall. Also, in December, the Media Laboratory and the Republic of Ireland reached an agreement to build a research center in Dublin.

Other agreements in the last five years include those with Amgen, Merck, Ford Motor Company, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, and Merrill Lynch.