Funding Innovation: HP Commits $4 Million in Latest Round of International Collaborative Research Awards

From its humble beginnings in a garage in Palo Alto to becoming the world's largest technology company, HP has proven that collaboration drives innovation—and that means success

In the foreword to a recent United States National Science Board study of research and development funding in the sciences, NSB chairman Ray M. Bowen warned of "continuing and growing concern with the trends in private sector support for U.S. science and engineering research and innovation." Noting that "investments in R&D by the private sector may decrease during times of economic distress," Bowen said that "state funding for public research universities decreased between 2001 and 2009," adding that the need for "other funding sources has increased substantially."

The worrisome trend isn't limited to the United States. In November, Ernst & Young forecasted a USD 45 billion gap in climate change funding due to austerity measures in the euro zone.


It's clear that "other funding sources" must come from the private sector. To be sure, innovation in today's marketplace is driven through collaborative work across spheres that are traditionally viewed separately.

"Sectors such as government, business, academia and civil society, often known for working at cross-purposes, are learning how to collaborate on shared aspirations," said Sha Zukang, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, in a press release about how global partnerships between governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector helped to achieve important Millennium Development Goal (MDG).

For the past five years, Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HPQ), commonly known as HP, has been developing the kind of cross-sector collaboration that Zukana describes through its HP Labs Innovation Research Program (IRP), which was founded in 2008 "to create opportunities at colleges, universities and research institutes around the world for collaborative research with HP."

The process is simple. Every year, HP issues an open call for proposals across "a range of targeted research topics with the goal of establishing new research collaborations." Scientists at HP Labs review and select the proposal which will receive funding awards "based on their alignment with the chosen research topic and expected impact of the proposed research."

The awards are meant to give financial support to a graduate student assisting a principal investigator on a collaborative research project with HP Labs, which the company describes as an "exploratory and advanced research group…tacking complex challenges facing our customers and society…while pushing the frontiers of fundamental science." The awards provide cash support for one year, between USD 50,000-75,000, renewable up to a maximum of three years.


Earlier this month, HP Labs announced USD 4 million in sponsored research awards as part of the fifth annual IRP. Through this latest installment, the Palo Alto, California-based multinational hardware and software company will help over 60 collaborative research projects across a wide array of disciplines, from cloud technology to information analytics, health care to social media, cognitive sciences to sustainability.

"HP Labs' ultimate goal is to bring value to HP through commercialization of our research," said Chandrakant Patel, HP senior fellow and interim director of HP Labs. "One of the ways we get there is by tapping into the wealth of knowledge from leading colleges, universities, and research institutes. Our academic colleagues contribute a diversity of perspective, new ideas and fresh approaches that strengthen our research. In return, we help educate the next generation of scientists and engineers."

For a complete list of recipients of the 2012 awards, which included 61 researchers at 46 academic institutions across 11 countries, click here.

"Innovation has long been recognized as an important driver of economic growth," the NSB report observes. "Empirical research and surveys of business activities show that innovation leads to new and improved products and services, higher productivity, and lower prices. As a result, economies that have consistently high levels of innovation also tend to have high levels of growth."

Thanks to cross-sector collaborations supported by HP's IRP, researchers around the world can be a part of that innovation-driven economic growth. HP's late founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard would have been proud. Their guiding philosophy—famously known as "The HP Way"—frowned upon traditional business hierarchy, favoring instead a decentralized approach that supported "effective cooperation within and among organizations." For this legendary duo, that open approach worked. They founded the company in Packard's Palo Alto garage in 1939 with an initial capital investment of $538. Today, it is the world's largest technology company with assets in excess of USD 129 billion.



National Science Foundation. Research & Development, Innovation, and the Science and Engineering Workforce. July 12, 2012. Accessed August 20, 2012.
Ernst & Young. Eurozone crisis could lead to US$45 billion climate change funding gap. November 11, 2011. Accessed August 20, 2012.
United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012. July 2, 2012. Accessed August 20, 2012.
HP. HP Labs Innovation Research Program. HP Labs Open Innovation Office. April 15, 2008. Accessed August 20, 2012.
HP. About HP Labs. June 20, 2008. Accessed August 20, 2012.
Michael Thacker. HP Labs commits research funding to 46 universities across the globe. HP Data Central Blog. August 9, 2012. Accessed August 18, 2012.
Ibid., 1.
Hewlett-Packard Alumni. The HP Way. January 31, 2001. Accessed August 20, 2012.
United States Securities and Exchange Commission. 2010 Form 10-K, Hewlett-Packard Company. October 31, 2010. Accessed August 20, 2012.

image: The Palo Alto garage where HP was founded in 1939 (Gerd Müller, Wikimedia Commons)