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Vol. 2, No. 5, September 2005

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

Stoking the Entrepreneurship Engine(er)

by Dean Thomas L. Magnanti [1], Vol. 2, No. 5, September 2005

"We in engineering don't study entrepreneurship per se; we do entrepreneurship. We create products and processes that people use. Together the combination of management and engineering provide an ideal underpinning for technological innovation and entrepeneurship."

Click on chart for larger view.

The word "engineer" derives from the Latin word ingenium: innate character, talent, or ability. "Entrepreneur" has its roots in the French word entreprendre, which means to undertake or take action. An engineer applies mathematics, science, and systems-integrative approaches to conceive, design, build, and operate useful objects or processes. An entrepreneur assumes the tasks of organization and management as well as the risks of new-project creation or new-venture startup.

In going beyond the words to examine engineering and entrepreneurship, I see the two as having a natural symbiosis. In fact, holding faculty positions in both the Sloan School of Management and the School of Engineering, I also see entrepreneurship as an organic bridge between these two disciplines.

Today, the MIT School of Engineering strives for "leadership through technical excellence and innovation" and seeks to create a new breed of graduates who, having a strong foundation of technical expertise, also possess the additional leadership qualities of inventiveness, risk-taking, and a sense of adventure.

The School has embraced a major initiative in Emerging Technologies to continually fuel next-generation technologies and move early-stage, cutting-edge ideas from the research lab into the marketplace, an endeavor that deeply involves both engineers and entrepreneurs and the engineer/entrepreneur. It builds on a wide-ranging portfolio of existing activities and organizations at MIT related to innovation and entrepreneurship. (See "Entrepreneurship Ecosystem" in Technology Review). These include:

Many of the entrepreneurial activities at MIT flow from research consortia and major projects that receive industrial and federal funding, such as the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN). Entrepreneurship is also an important component of several MIT initiatives including the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) and the Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA).

MIT has always been an entrepreneurial haven...

[1] This article was adapted, with permission, from "Of Engineers and Entrepreneurs" by Lay Leng Tan, Innovation magazine, Vol. 5, No. 3. (Innovation magazine is jointly published by the National University of Singapore and World Scientific Publishing.)