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MIT launches Entrepreneurship Review

May 6, 2010

In my final year as a graduate student, I have gotten involved with a new student-run publication that launched this past March known as the MIT Entrepreneurship Review. MITER’s aim is to provide coverage of the dazzling (& dizzying!) entrepreneurship ecosystem that has been thriving at the Institute for quite some time now. Entrepreneurship in many ways characterizes the very soul of MIT, reinforcing its legendary credo “mens et manus” (mind and hand) as well as the creative, can-do spirit of its faculty & students. Consider the following stupendous statistic. A rigorous study conducted by the Kaufman Foundation last year found that if all the revenues from active companies formed by MIT graduates were tallied up, it would form the 17th largest nation in the world. My own photonics research group has consistently been at the forefront of startup activity in this area for the last decade as three successful start-up ventures have come directly out of our work: Omniguide was launched in 2000 to develop hollow-core fibers as optical scalpels for non-invasive surgical applications, Luminus Devices began in 2002 to fabricate ultra-bright light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for projection-based televisions, and more recently Witricity launched in 2007 to provide power wirelessly. Two of the three companies (Omniguide and Witricity) were founded by current MIT faculty members, Yoel Fink of Materials Science & Engineering and Marin Soljacic of Physics who both continue to commit a significant amount of their time to these outside ventures. I have long believed in the transformative power of technology to cure many of society’s ills and have been astounded by all the innovation activity I have observed during the last six years. My very first article for MITER covered the burgeoning smart materials research at the Institute viewed through the case study of Thermeleon, a company started by a friend to make color-changing roof tiles that turn white in the summer and black in the winter and thus provide a straightforward and inexpensive method to regulate indoor household temperature. My second article explored attempts by countries abroad to replicate the MIT model of prolific research institute as innovation hub to drive economic growth, specifically focusing on one such notable attempt in the Middle East known as the Masdar Institute of Science & Technology that seeks, with MIT’s help, to become the premier knowledge-based technology epicenter in the region. My third article, co-authored with colleague John Silva, examines the synergy of MIT’s location in the teeming Boston urban environment as a major factor contributing to its vaunted success, while comparing it to other peer institutions (e.g. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago) that have not been quite as successful in similar endeavors. In the printing press is my next article that explores the challenges faced by MIT entrepreneurs vying for success in the crowded solar industry. I am currently finishing a piece on the substantial, sometimes prohibitive, costs of publishing in and accessing scientific journals and what this means for the dissemination of knowledge in an era of instant-access, always-on, intensely networked societies where technological change is happening at breakneck speed. MITER has been a wonderfully enriching experience to complement my intensive daily research regimen. I have been able to meet and interact with such entrepreneurial luminaries as Alex Pentland (one of the world’s top cited computer scientists and serial entrepreneur who started Real Networks), Bob Metcalfe (inventor of the Ethernet), Jason Pontin (editor of the Technology Review magazine) and the legendary Robert Langer (the most prolific engineer-academic inventor of all) during private sessions with the MITER editorial board. MITER has provided me with a window into the very heart of the MIT innovation engine that will flourish well into the future.

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From → MIT, science, technology

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