stanford.jpgLast week, we explored the impressive network that is behind much of the greatness of Silicon Valley.

We mentioned the example of the University of California – San Francisco, which is making great strides in expanding research and facilities for things like biotech breakthroughs — and how this is dependent in great part on the donations by thousands of individuals.

So now comes news that Stanford University, at the heart of Silicon Valley, received more money from donations than rival Harvard University (free registration) for…

the first time. Some 72,000 alumni gave a total of $603.6 million during the past fiscal year. That will fuel further investments in Stanford’s research and teach facilities — which produce students who go on to start great companies like Yahoo and Google.

Indeed, Stanford has (free registration) also just announced it has bought eight buildings in Redwood City, just to the north, marking the second sizeable off-campus purchase this year. A few months ago, Stanford’s Medical Center bought the buildings once occupied by Excite@Home, and plans to convert them to outpatient clinics. So the recent purchase could be used for a biotechnology research hub, that could complement the clinics in some ways — but we don’t know yet. In any case, it is a way for Stanford to keep up with UCSF’s power push into life science research.

And here’s just the latest example of a Stanford science breakthrough, reported today by colleague Dean Takahashi:

Engineers at Stanford University have taken a step closer to fashioning silicon chips that could manipulate data at the speed of light, a development that could one day create lightning-fast networks to carry the ever-growing traffic on the Internet…