Engineering Our WorldThe e-newsletter of the MIT School of Engineering

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Emerging Technologies


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Vol. 1, No. 6, November 2004

Welcome to Engineering Our World, the MIT School of Engineering's free bulletin for alumni and friends. Updated six times yearly, Engineering Our World describes some of the work we're doing at the leading edge of technological change, providing news and articles of the School's major initiatives.Past Issues

Emerging Technologies: Seeding Our Future

by Dean Thomas L. Magnanti

We need to invest in new vectors of research – before the world agrees they're a good idea. By the time the money for a new realm of science and technology washes ashore, the most ambitious ships have already left the harbor.

From the airplane to the artificial blood vessel, from computers to nano-manufacturing, new technologies fuel the economy and improve the quality of our lives. Every new technology starts out as an emerging technology - one that made the challenging journey from promising idea to indispensable invention.

Emerging technologies are what make MIT's School of Engineering famous. The School has contributed to many of the major technological developments that transformed the last century: electricity, automobiles, spacecraft, radio and television, refrigeration, telephones, health technologies, and computers. Today, the Institute makes new invention disclosures at a rate of 1-2 per day; it leads the country's universities in patents obtained annually, with 150 new U.S. patents and 90 new license agreements for MIT in FY2003. MIT inventions add more than $20 billion and 150,000 jobs to the economy each year. In addition, MIT alumni have made an extraordinary impact on the economy by starting technology-based companies. In 1997, as cited in a well known Bank of Boston study, 4,000 MIT-founded companies employed over a million people and had annual world sales of $232 billion. If these companies had constituted a foreign country at that time, they would have ranked 24th-largest in the world – just behind South Africa and ahead of Thailand.

While we've been enormously successful in developing new technologies, remaining ahead of the curve is an ongoing challenge for a few reasons:
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