Microsoft and Japan's National Institute of Informatics (NII) just announced a joint program that will give university researchers free access to Windows Azure cloud computing resources for the "Info-Plosion Project." Similar to the agreement made earlier this year with the National Science Foundation, this Windows Azure Research Engagement will provide researchers with Windows Azure resources for scientific technical computing, enabling them to take advantage of Windows Azure's ability to seamlessly scale for work on large scientific research projects.
As Bill Hilf, Microsoft general manager of Technical Computing, explains in his post about this announcement, this is a part of Microsoft's technical computing initiative, which is "focused on empowering a broader group of people to solve some of the world's biggest challenges. Our aim is mainstream technical computing with tools, platforms and services that take advantage of computing power across the desktop, servers and the cloud." You can read more about this initiative in some of Bill's previous posts.