Can Intel-Microsoft Money for Universities Make Up for Defense Department Shortfall?

We reported earlier this week that Microsoft and Intel will give $20-million to two universities to boost research into parallel computing. But maybe that’s not enough.

The money given to the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a drop in the bucket when compared to the money for advanced computing that used to flow to universities from the Department of Defense, the Computing Research Policy Blog recently noted.

The blog post notes that grants from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency have been going, more and more, to classified and military research, and away from computing research done at universities. “In fact, between FY 2001 and FY 2004 (the last year for which we have good data), the amount of funding from Darpa to U.S. universities fell by half,” the blog post says.

“The Microsoft-Intel investment is a bold move and big commitment to address a key challenge in computer science that’s a primary concern for the two companies in the future,” the blog continues. “But it doesn’t represent a sustainable alternative to filling the hole left in the IT R&D portfolio created by Darpa’s absence.”

Commenting on our own Wired Campus post about the money, one person had a different objection: that the universities were likely to fritter the award away because of poor management. But David Patterson, the Berkeley computer scientist leading that institution’s parallel computing effort, responded vigorously that the university had a long and successful history of managing basic research projects, such as the development of the reduced instruction set chip, that matured into major industry payoffs.—Josh Fischman

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