Intel labs to be replaced with specialized centers

Credit: Alexandre Kaspar/ Credit: Alexandre Kaspar/

In March, Intel will close Intel Labs Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon, one of three remaining university lablets and part of the Intel Labs research program. The move is part of the company’s overall transition from lablets to more specialized Intel Science and Technology Centers (ISTCs).

In January, the company announced its plans to invest approximately $100 million into the new ISTCs. “Instead of three university lablets, there [are] envisioned seven ISTCs, for roughly the same investment from Intel,” said Phil Gibbons, a principal research scientist at Intel Labs Pittsburgh and an adjunct professor in the school of computer science. “Each ISTC is a three- to five-year center that Intel plans to fund at $2.5 million per year.”

Continuing its partnership with Carnegie Mellon, Intel will build two ISTCs on the Carnegie Mellon campus: One center will focus on cloud computing, while the other will research embedded computing. “CMU was the only university awarded two centers, which I believe is a testament to the success of the CMU-Intel partnership to date,” Gibbons added.

“A key aspect of the relationship would be a very open intellectual property model that would reduce the barriers to effective collaboration between university faculty and students and Intel researchers,” explained Mahadev Satyanarayanan, who was previously a professor in the school of computer science.

Gibbons also commented, “Intel and each partner university agreed to an open, collaborative model in which intellectual property is jointly shared, source code is released open source, and research results are published openly in academic conferences.”

“Dr. David Tennenhouse [director of the then newly created Intel Research] approached me about creating a lablet at Carnegie Mellon. This would be a relatively small entity, about 20 researchers in total, who would work very closely with Carnegie Mellon University in extending the frontiers of computer science and creating new opportunities for core Intel technologies,” recounted Satyanarayanan. “The university administration was supportive of this concept, and in May 2001 I accepted the position of founding director of Intel Research [Pittsburgh].”

Opened in May 2001 above the Starbucks on Craig Street, Intel Labs Pittsburgh was one of the first collaborative research centers between universities and major computing technology companies. “The lab was opened ... to fulfill Intel’s vision of essential computing by improving the technologies that we rely on in our daily lives,” according to its website.

“Intel is closing all three remaining university lablets in order to introduce a new framework,” explained Gibbons. Currently, Intel has lablets at Carnegie Mellon, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Washington. Intel also had a lablet at the University of Cambridge until 2007.

“Over a 10-year period since its founding, the Intel lab in Pittsburgh has been phenomenally successful in attracting top computer science talent and in creating high-impact research results,” Satyanarayanan said. “Now Intel wishes to switch to a different model of collaboration with universities, and hence its decision to close the lab.”

During Satyanarayanan’s term as director, both Carnegie Mellon faculty and students worked with Intel researchers in a variety of areas relating to computer science, including virtual computing and image-based searching and querying.

In 2004, Satyanarayanan stepped down as director to return to a full-time faculty position, and he was succeeded by Todd Mowry.

While the lablets operated as stand-alone research centers, the new ISTCs will be more specialized and work in specific areas of computing technology assigned by Intel. For example, the first ISTC, which will be at Stanford University, will focus on visual computing.

“Many current staff members at Intel Labs Pittsburgh plan to continue their research and projects at one of the two ISTCs. I have accepted the Intel-Principal Investigator position in the CMU ISTC on cloud computing,” Gibbons said. “This is an exciting opportunity, and I look forward to the break through research that will arise from this new partnership with CMU. The faculty and students at CMU are world-class and fun to work with.”