Thursday, 14 April 2016

Google's ATAP Head Regina Dugan Joins Facebook To Start DARPA-Inspired Team

Regina Dugan, the high-profile former head of DARPA, who since 2012 has led Google GOOGL +0.95%‘s Advanced Technology And Products team TISI +% developing modular smartphones, 3D-mapping devices, and smart fabrics, is defecting to start a competing group at Facebook FB -0.11%.

The new group will be called Building 8 (there is no such building at Facebook yet), and the company’s top brass has committed to funding it to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, Dugan told FORBES in an interview.

“We will focus on ambitious R&D as a means to create breakthrough products,” Dugan said.

Dugan departure is a big loss for Google, where she spearheaded a string of high-profile projects that were often prominently showcased at the company’s events. She declined to say why she chose to leave Google for Facebook.

Dugan, who in 2009 became the first woman director of DARPA, the Defense Department’s illustrious research agency responsible for advances that led to the global positioning system, the stealth fighter, and the Internet, specializes in a singular approach to innovation that seeks to combine scientific breakthroughs with product development.

The approach, which Dugan honed at DARPA, is intended to get around challenges that have plagued scores of advanced-research labs in the tech industry. Because those labs often focus on scientific breakthroughs detached from products they rarely result in practical applications. Similarly, “advanced” product groups tend to shy away from risky science, and in Dugan’s colorful language, projects quickly go from attempting to build “epic shit” to “shitty in an epic way.” At DARPA and Google, Dugan led rapid product development teams, whose projects depended on scientific breakthroughs and who typically had two years to yield results. The teams also relied on collaborations with outside teams in academia and elsewhere.


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