Johns Hopkins, Applied Physics Laboratory part of multi-university research agreement with Facebook

Johns Hopkins University and the Applied Physics Laboratory are part of a multi-university research agreement

Facebook has reached a research agreement with multiple academic institutions, including the Johns Hopkins University and the Applied Physics Laboratory, a research center affiliated with the university.

The so-called Sponsored Academic Research Agreement is intended to make it easier for Facebook's Building 8, the social media giant's secretive research and development unit, to work with universities to develop new technologies.

In the past, Facebook may have spent up to a year hammering out a research project agreement with a university, but under the new deal, that process could be done within weeks, said Regina Dugan, who left Google earlier this year to lead Building 8, in a Facebook post.

Another 15 universities, including Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard and Princeton, are also part of the agreement.

It is not clear what projects or products the group will work on, but Building 8's Facebook page lists augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence and connectivity as some of its research interests. Recent media reports have linked it to a new phone.

Ralph Semmel, director of the Applied Physics Lab, said the partnership is in line with the Laurel-based research center's culture of experimentation.

"APL's scientists and engineers have developed some of the most advanced technologies anywhere," said Semmel said in a statement. "This agreement provides an avenue through which we can explore potential applications of these technologies that are complementary to our traditional research areas."

The research center routinely works with the federal departments of defense and homeland security, the National Security Agency and NASA.

sarah.gantz@baltsun.com

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