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Microsoft dishes out academic grants

Software giant allocates $1 million in funding to academic researchers in countries around the world.

Microsoft announced Thursday the recipients of approximately $1 million in academic research funding.

The software giant asked academic researchers to submit request for proposals (RFPs) on advancing Microsoft Virtual Earth technology as well as for developing curriculum projects for the company's Trustworthy Computing initiatives, which focus on the security, privacy and reliability of Microsoft software.

Twenty-three researchers were awarded the grants. Recipients represent universities from countries around the world including Belgium, India, Russia, South Korea and the United States. The eight winners of the Virtual Earth proposal process will receive a total of $300,000, while the 15 winners of the Trustworthy Computing proposals will receive a total of $750,000. The maximum individual grant amount for each proposal is $50,000.

"We invest in innovative research, collaborate with academia and governments to advance education, cultivate next-generation IT leaders, and partner to build knowledge economies," Sailesh Chutani, director of the External Research & Programs group within Microsoft Research, said in a statement. "We have the largest RFP program in the IT industry and are very committed to advancing state-of-the-art computing."

The Virtual Earth RFP encourages university research in areas relevant to digital geography including spatio-temporal databases, routing, computer vision, ontologies, map user interfaces and visualization. Virtual Earth is Microsoft's mapping and local search technology. The eight winners of the Virtual Earth RFP will conduct basic research in digital geographics that is expected to advance the state of the art.

Microsoft also awarded grants to researchers the company says are developing Trustworthy Computing curricula. Trustworthy Computing is a phrase Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates coined in a January 2002 memo to rally employees to emphasize security in all the company's products. The concept has become a cornerstone of Microsoft's product development.

This year's Trustworthy Computing RFP is focused on developing curricula and policy in five areas: business integrity, privacy, reliability, security and secure software engineering. Three recipients were named for each of the five categories.

The funding announced on Thursday is one of several initiatives within Microsoft's Research division, a group founded in 1991 to conduct basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. In addition to its own internal research, Microsoft invests in academic research through the External Research & Programs.

In the last fiscal year, the division provided almost $4 million in IT research funding through the administration of six RFPs, according to Microsoft. Over the past two years, the company says, the External Research & Programs group has supported more than 125 research projects at universities around the world in areas ranging from social computing and gaming to robotics and digital inclusion.