Innovation

MIT's engineers have provided a steady source of new ideas, technologies, systems, services, and products to the world since the Institute was founded in 1861. New educational technologies, evolving student interests, and emerging research on the innovation process present new opportunities to build on our successes and enhance MIT’s ability to provide educational opportunities that develop both technical skills and mastery in innovation. This requires bringing together insights from the science of innovation with hands-on, applied opportunities in the practice of innovation — and doing so in a way that is integrated into traditional training.

In October 2013, President Rafael Reif formally renewed MIT’s focus on innovation as a central element of the Institute’s culture by launching the MIT Innovation Initiative. Chaired by Associate Deans of Innovation in the School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management, the Innovation Initiative is an Institute-wide effort to, in the words of its charter: “amplify the MIT community’s powers of innovation and our passion for progress.” Leading these efforts for the School of Engineering is Associate Dean for Innovation Vladimir Bulović the Fariborz Maseeh Chair in Emerging Technology. His research on nanostructured films and structures and optoelectronic devices have led to 60 US patents licensed by start-up and multinational companies. He is also a practicing entrepreneur and has started several companies.  

To amplify these efforts, in January 2016 the School of Engineering launched the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program to support student-initiated ideas. Sandbox connects students with tailored educational experiences, mentoring, and up to $25,000 in funding to help them nurture their creative brainstorms. “The primary aim is to develop people, not necessarily startups or products,” says Ian A. Waitz, dean of MIT’s School of Engineering and the originator of the program. "It is designed to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be more effective when they go off in the world and practice MIT’s brand of deep scientific and technological innovation.”

In addition to MIT Sandbox, related educational activities, such as the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, the MIT100K competition, as well as our continual enhancements of MITx, will enable students to put their ideas into context: communicating and commercializing products and social enterprises; creating dynamic and collaborative teams; adapting and refining designs for specific audiences; as well as developing nascent technologies and adapting existing ones. 
 
Programs such as the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation and the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and Translational Fellows Program, will continue to serve faculty and researchers looking to engage in the innovation and venture spaces.
 
Finally, MIT alumni are an amazing generator of global entrepreneurial impact. As of 2014, an internal report estimates that MIT alumni have launched 30,200 active companies, employing roughly 4.6 million people, and generating roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenues.
 
That revenue total falls between the world’s ninth-largest GDP, Russia ($2.097 trillion), and the 10th-largest, India ($1.877 trillion), according to 2013 data on those and other countries from the International Monetary Fund.
 

The Future of Innovation: MIT.nano

The School of Engineering's top priority in support of the innovation activity of our faculty is the construction of MIT.nano, a new laboratory facility to advance the manufacturing and characterization of materials and systems at the nano scale. To that end, MIT is constructing an integrated nanoscience and nanotechnology facility with a mission to redefine the frontiers of research, exploration, education, and innovation. 

The facility will combine MIT’s strengths in nanotechnology, materials, and engineering systems with the most advanced fabrication tools and materials processing and characterization capabilities. MIT.nano will give MIT researchers the ability to distinguish and manipulate materials at the atomic scale, create devices using those materials, and develop ways of implementing those devices within larger systems. The impact of MIT.nano will be on the broadest scale.      

Dedicated exclusively to experimentation and instruction, MIT.nano will support the research activities of 2,000 members of the MIT community. It will occupy the footprint of Building 12, just steps from the Infinite Corridor, and become a central resource for creating “disruptive technologies” that will reimagine medicine, computing, manufacturing, sustainable infrastructure, and quantum science and technology, among other fields.

The School of Engineering project leads for MIT.nano are the Dean of the School of Engineering, Ian A. Waitz, and Associate Dean of Innovation Vladimir Bulović.

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