Yahoo Opens Research Facility for UC Berkeley Students

The search giant's new research facility gives University of California, Berkeley, professors and students access to Yahoo's audience of 400 million to research their ideas.

BERKELEY, Calif.—Yahoo Inc. has opened a research facility a few miles north of here to collaborate with professors, graduate students and undergrads from the University of California, Berkeley.

The research facility holds about 30 computer sciences graduate students and professors, all studying the social aspects of the digital age, using Yahoos audience of 400 million to research their ideas.

Graduate students for the most part will be doing their own research, but there will also be some specific-to-Yahoo projects and collaborations between the university and Yahoo, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., said Yahoo officials. Further details werent disclosed.

This is Yahoos first collaboration with any university, and Yahoo Chief Data Officer Usama Fayyad said there will likely be a few more in the next few months or years.

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Berkeley computer sciences professor Marc Davis, on leave to head up the project, said, in general, the research focuses on searching the Internet and mobility. "Were at a crossing point where people access digital information on their phones more than their personal computers," he said.

In other relationships between private businesses and universities, theres been great tension from sometimes overly strict intellectual property rules that dont allow public disclosure of the work a graduate student is doing. But peer review of works-in-progress is endemic to getting a higher degree.

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Joe Siino, Yahoos vice president of intellectual property, said the deal with the Berkeley university is structured to deliberately avoid such problems. Professors and graduates students are free to disclose their work, as usual, he said.

From a regional standpoint, the endeavor shows that Silicon Valley has crept a little further north from San Jose, which is about 50 miles away. Berkeley and its very prestigious university have somehow managed to avoid being engulfed by the "valley," which uses just such collaborations in a hunt for any competitive edge. But there arent many high-tech firms to begin with, at least no really big names, with offices or research facilities in Berkeley.

But get used to it. Yahoos committed to at least a year of support. Given the connection to the university (several high-ranking Yahoo executives are alumni), the facility appears to have staying power.

A Berkeley city official, attending an open house for the research facility on Tuesday, said the city hopes more high-tech companies will follow Yahoos lead.

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