Industry-University Partnership Boosts Computing Innovation | Waterloo News
Fabrice Matulic is a Principal Researcher at Preferred Networks, Inc., a technology company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. He is a former postdoctoral fellow at the Cheriton School of Computer Science, where he worked in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI).
After leaving Waterloo, Matulic maintained a productive working relationship with researchers at the University, and more specifically with Daniel Vogel, Associate Professor and Cheriton Faculty Fellow in Computer Science.
Over the past few years, their industry-university partnership has resulted in a surge in research, bringing enormous value to the University and preferred networks. The collaboration is a case study of how such partnerships can drive innovation.
“When I was considering doing the postdoc, I was familiar with Dan’s work and knew we had a common affinity for HCI,” Matulic said. “We both had this tendency towards creative projects that combined technology, arts and science, so straight away it was clear that we could work well together. I always had an interest in working in the industry, but I knew that even if I went into the industry, I would like to continue working with Dan.
Preferred Networks is a company that values research and was co-founded by a researcher. Its main activity is currently the development and sale of software, hardware and network technologies that integrate deep learning and other advanced technologies.
“Preferred Networks is a cutting-edge technology company that places great importance on enabling and supporting future research,” said Vogel. “Their values align perfectly with UWaterloo’s values, so this partnership is only natural and makes a lot of sense.”
It is also a company that offered Matulic the perfect opportunity to combine his passions for creativity, research and business.
“We have a substantial research goal,” Matulic said. “But we are also a company that must be self-sufficient and generate income. The research is not a side project, however. He actively helps grow the business and engage with the technology community. For me, it’s a happy balance.
The win-win situation
Due to the breadth of his work with Waterloo and the value it brings, Matulic has, since early 2022, been officially appointed Assistant Professor at the Cheriton School of Computer Science.
“We are thrilled that a world-class HCI researcher like Fabrice is now officially part of UWaterloo Computing and the HCI Lab in particular,” Vogel said. “His expertise and experience will be extremely valuable to graduate thesis committees, which will undoubtedly lead to even more exciting research collaborations.
This appointment makes things easier administratively, but the professorship is also a respectful mark of distinction for a researcher who has done so much to foster collaboration and build bridges between industry and academia.
The research partnership is a boon for Preferred Networks, not only in the form of technology development, patents and intellectual property, but also because of the publications and awards that the Matulic and Vogel collaboration brings.
“It’s a win-win situation for both the university and the company,” Matulic said. “Look at the results of the collaboration. It’s a model that works for my company and it’s a model that works for the university. And it innovates in HMI and other fields. It’s incredibly valuable.
Build a partnership
The creation of the research partnership between Preferred Networks and the University of Waterloo also had a more formal aspect to the two researchers and their affinity for HMI and machine learning. Intellectual property, liability and other concerns became part of the equation, and the company and university found practical ways to make the arrangement airtight.
“Right away, I pushed within my company to be able to work with Dan and for him to be officially a researcher that I could share internal company information with,” Matulic explained. “We had Dan sign an NDA and a Basic Research Agreement so I could tell him, ‘Hey, we’re working on this at the company.'”
On the University side, the Research Partnerships team within the Office of Research facilitated a process for Vogel and other researchers to share information with Matulic and Preferred Networks. Matulic said Jennifer Ranford, senior manager of research partnerships, found ways to overcome all the hurdles she encountered when formally setting up the collaboration.
“The way it works now that everything is in place is that I can call on Dan if I’m working on a project where I’d like to get his input and benefit from his expertise,” he said. “With Waterloo projects, it’s either working directly with Dan or with some of his students, often on projects that have machine learning or deep learning components.”
Learn about some of Matulic’s research projects and ongoing partnership activities on the HCI website. Learn more about Preferred Networks, Inc. on the company’s website.