Microsoft Research conducts both basic and applied research. Its researchers push the state of the art in computer science, which ultimately leads to new insights for the industry and innovative products for consumers. Great ideas can develop beyond Microsoft Research’s labs through a variety of technology transfer mechanisms, including its dedicated technology transfer team, product incubations, intellectual property (IP) licensing and the sale of Microsoft Research products through the online Microsoft Store.
The Microsoft Research philosophy is that successful technology transfer is a social process, not a mechanical or logistical one. It is about people — relationships, communication and trust. With established relationships and ongoing communication and collaboration between research and the product teams, technology transfer happens naturally. New ideas are sparked during integration meetings, and technologies born in Microsoft Research are shared with Microsoft Corp. product and incubation teams. But the sharing of ideas is only the beginning. Once the technology transfer process begins, close collaboration between research and the product teams turns ideas and technologies into products that can benefit consumers.
Dedicated technology transfer team
Technology transfer is a top priority for Microsoft Research. Early on, the group created a technology transfer team dedicated solely to bridging the long-range research and near-term product development functions within Microsoft.
"Our researchers are here to push ahead the state of the art in computer science. When we have great ideas that work, we strive to move those ideas and technologies into Microsoft products as rapidly as possible."
— Rick Rashid, chief research officer, Microsoft Research
For 20 years, Microsoft Research has been successfully collaborating with the product groups to innovate new ideas and technologies and transfer them into key Microsoft products. Today, the work of Microsoft Research touches nearly every product Microsoft ships, whether group members are contributing new core technologies, providing new algorithms, developing and sharing code, consulting with product teams, designing new user interfaces, creating better developer tools, or contributing in a host of other ways. From the optimization tools for Microsoft Windows 95 and the Microsoft Office 95 suite of productivity software, to more than 75 new innovations in the 2007 Microsoft Office system, to Clearflow traffic-based routing and xRank in Microsoft Live Search, the success of this partnership continues to grow.
Technologies developed within Microsoft Research are sometimes licensed externally through the company’s IP Ventures program. IP licensing is a collaborative approach to bringing great ideas to customers and driving industry innovation, product choice and market opportunity.
"There are many technology transfers that take place behind the scenes at Microsoft that are not apparent to consumers. I wish people had more visibility into these collaborations, which take place more often than people might expect, because it makes the product story more interesting."
— Neel Joshi, researcher, Microsoft Research
IP licensing presents a tangible business opportunity to venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and government economic development organizations to help stimulate the development of local economies and connect with the global market. By creating empowering new technologies, enhancing existing products and services, exploring the frontiers of computing, and using these technologies internally as well as licensing them externally, Microsoft Research not only is further helping Microsoft, but also is bringing innovative ideas and technology to customers — driving innovation throughout the industry and enabling businesses to realize their full potential.
Incubation is an important part of the innovation ecosystem at Microsoft. Microsoft Research collaborates with several product incubation teams to deliver cutting-edge technologies through its applied research. Live Labs, Office Labs, DevLabs, SQL Labs, the adCenter Incubation Lab and the Internet Services Research Center are examples of teams that bring together top-notch researchers and product teams to incubate and rapidly prototype new technologies and services. With the ever-changing pace of the Internet age, incubation groups allow Microsoft to be more nimble and accelerate the pace of innovation even further, so that Microsoft Research can rapidly deliver technologies to customers and drive Microsoft’s overall growth.
The majority of the work undertaken in the Microsoft Research labs is longer-term, pure research that ships in Microsoft products; however, a few compelling innovations rapidly develop from research concept to production level and are delivered to users in a more immediate, direct fashion through the online Microsoft Store.
The technologies featured here are just a small representation of the Microsoft Research technology transfers.