Report: Uber partners with university but poaches latter's staff

Report: Uber partners with university but poaches latter's staff image

Text: Marcus De Guzman / Photos: Uber, Carnegie Mellon | posted June 02, 2015 11:57

Uber lures away researchers, scientists from Carnegie Mellon's robotics firm

Uber Technologies Inc., the online transport booking service, recently made a controversial business move after supposedly hiring 40 new researchers and scientists from their partner, Carnegie Mellon University. The new members were reportedly 'lured away' from the university's National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) by enticing them with an increased salary along with special bonuses.

Interestingly, Uber and Carnegie formed what they call a 'strategic partnership' back in February that allowed the two parties to work closely in developing driverless-car technology for app-based ride-hailing services. Internally though, the collaboration appeared more like a battle between Uber and Carnegie.

According to Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the covert hiring spree began during the months of January and February as NREC suddenly started to see a 'brain-drain' happening within the firm. Herman Herman, the newly-minted director of NREC, showed a presentation last May 6 that seeks to stabilize the robotics firm amidst the lack of staff.

Based on Herman's presentation, Uber took 6 principal researchers along with 34 engineers. Among those that were hired by Uber include then-NREC director Tony Stentz and key program directors. Before Uber's involvement, Herman stated that they had more than 100 engineers and scientists that were developing technology for the US military.

“If you want to do autonomous vehicles—we have a lot of people here doing that. I would have preferred [Uber] just come to us - to develop the vehicle rather than hire away scientists,” said Jeff Legault, Head of Business Development for NREC.

Wall Street Journal contacted Uber Technologies Inc. about the issue but declined to comment about it. John Bares, who ran the NREC from 1997 – 2010 and now head of Uber's new tech center in Pittsburgh, also did not respond to WSJ's request for an interview.

Source: Wall Street Journal