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Intel announces another university research center

University of California, IrvineIntel Corp. announced its seventh Intel Science and Technology Center (ISTC) will focus on social computing and be based at the University of California, Irvine.

Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer, announced the latest ISTC in an event here Tuesday. The event was to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Intel Labs, the No. 1 chip vendor’s research arm.

As with other ISTCs, Intel plans to sink $15 million in the UC Irvine ISTC over a five-year period, Rattner said. The announcement of the seventh ISTC completes the company’s commitment, announced last year, to invest $100 million in the ISTC program over five years.

In addition to UC Irvine, the social computing ISTC includes partnerships with research groups at Cornell, Georgia Tech, Indiana and NYU, Rattner said. As with other ISTCs, the social computing center is designed to foster tighter collaboration between Intel and academia.

Rattner said Tuesday that Intel’s vision behind the ISTC program—and the companion Intel Collaborative Research Institute program with universities located outside the U.S.—was to foster research communities in a way led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Defense Dept. agency responsible for developing military technology.

“We saw this as an opportunity for Intel to step in where DARPA had stepped out and try to rebuild these communities,” Rattner said.

Rattner also said that Intel arrived at the funding model for ISTCs—$3 million per year for five years—after realizing that previous, lower funded programs did not create the momentum among university research faculty that the company had hoped. “When you start to move into the millions of dollars per year range, you really can get that kind of attention,” Rattner said.

Rattner said the social computing ISTC is the first of the company’s ISTCs that will focus specifically on user experience design. The social computing ISTC will involve the work of both social scientists and technologists, he said.

“This is absolutely a set of people we have been hoping to get together for years, and Intel has given us the opportunity to do that,” said Paul Dourish, a UC Irvine informatics professor who will co-lead the social computing ISTC.

Intel said the social computing ISTC would focus its research on exploring information technology and digital media as social and cultural phenomena. “The idea is to try to think about how we all relate to each other in and around and through information,” Dourish said.

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