MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVII No. 3
January / February 2005
Initial Impressions
Food for Thought:
Issues for the Next 10 Years
An Open Letter to the MIT Faculty: Maintaining Integrity at MIT
Themes On Love; Like This;
Within Another Life
Some Further Thoughts on the FPC Suggestions on Faculty Governance
Aimee Smith Found Not Guilty
Quality of Life Issues at MIT
What's All This About Export Controls?
In It But Not Of It:
Nine Years in the MIT Administration
Nuclear Engineering Department
Changes Its Name
An Update on the Cambridge-MIT Institute
Teaching this spring? You should know . . .
Research Expenditures By Primary Sponsor, 1997-2004
"Please rate the following dimensions of your program" [from the Graduate Student Survey 2004]
Printable Version

An Update on the Cambridge-MIT Institute

Edward Crawley

The high level objective of the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) is to improve national economic competitiveness by stimulating universities to be even stronger engines of economic growth. We focus primarily on the knowledge exchange mechanisms between universities and industry, including the diffusion of knowledge that takes place as students graduate. CMI uses evidence of best practice at MIT, Cambridge, and elsewhere to develop generalizable models of these processes, to test these models, and to disseminate them widely outside of Cambridge and MIT, and within our two institutions.

CMI was established as a joint venture of Cambridge University and MIT in the summer of 2000, with financial support from the Department of Trade and Industry in the United Kingdom (UK). As such, the specific mission of CMI is "to enhance the competitiveness, productivity and entrepreneurship of the UK economy by improving the effectiveness of knowledge exchange between university and industry, educating leaders, creating new ideas, and developing programs for change in universities, industry and government using a partnership of Cambridge and MIT, and an extended network of partners."

In the four years of its existence, CMI has initiated a range of important experiments, particularly in the multi-faceted interaction with industry in the areas of emerging technology.

In the absence of a pre-existing model of transatlantic university/industry co-operation, the earliest CMI activities were built wherever possible on existing complementary high-quality efforts at both universities. The aim was to identify points in both universities where effective collaborations could be developed that fit the CMI mission. The first programs had four principal strands: a student exchange program, integrated research, executive education, and the formation of a National Competitiveness Network (NCN). The early results from these programs led to a further coalescing of CMI's strategic goals in early 2003, producing a strategy that focused increasingly on knowledge exchange (KE) at the intersection of research, education, and industry.

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In order to reach its goals, CMI has organized its efforts into three strategic thrusts: education, which develops educational programs and materials aimed at increasing learner knowledge, skills, and attitude in the domain of KE; research, which funds programs centered on important ideas, and with imbedded innovations in KE; and the education in and the practice of KE at the boundary between universities and industry. In addition, we have a program to systematically learn from our innovations, produce materials for education programs, and create the basis of evidence for policy and practice.

In addition to the outputs of all of the individual projects of CMI (currently about 60), the systematic outcome will be the development of models for enhanced KE. Each of these models will be developed, tested, evaluated, codified, and disseminated throughout organic networks at MIT, Cambridge, and more broadly in the UK. To date, CMI has created three major and interrelated meta-models: (i) knowledge integration in research, (ii) education for innovation, and (iii) the engagement of industry in the universities. The central concept unifying these meta-models is the effectiveness of two-way knowledge exchange at the academic-university interface.

(i) We view research as an integrated activity of the development of new ideas in the context of education and involvement of appropriate external stakeholders. The key features of "knowledge integration in research" are: (a) deep contact with those who develop even more fundamental innovations and technologies, so that ideas can be identified and developed with a consideration of use; (b) ongoing dialog with external stakeholders aimed at developing insight into their needs; and (c) an integrated team of university researchers, industry, and public and regulatory representatives who will develop the idea or technology.

The most prominent manifestation of this meta-model is the Knowledge Integration Communities (KICs), in which CMI has brought together stakeholders to craft, own, and operate a program of research, educational, and industrial outreach in areas that go to the heart of future industrial prosperity.

At present the KICs are focused on emerging technologies. In each, the fully developed model would include several universities, the industrial supply chain from component makers to systems builders, users, regional development agents, and regulators. During 2003, CMI launched four KICs in Connected Worlds (next generation communications), Silent Aircraft, Pervasive Computing, and Systems Biology. Two new KICs have recently been added for the Center for Competitiveness and Innovation and Quantum Computing.

(ii) Working with colleagues, CMI has identified what we feel are the essential features of an "education for innovation": (a) a deep conceptual knowledge of the fundamentals, (b) an ability to develop new products working in a team and in an organizational context, and (c) a deep sense of self-efficacy. A deep conceptual understanding of a material is necessary to rework knowledge to create new ideas and products. An aptitude for working in teams is essential to function in modern enterprise. And a sense of self-efficacy underlies the willingness to take risks necessary for innovation. CMI has established a suite of educational programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels that embody these features. Elements range from short courses for budding student entrepreneurs, a renewed emphasis on skills and practice in engineering education, the definition of new undergraduate streams that focus on interdisciplinarity, and new postgraduate courses that marry technical and business learning and experience. An important experiment, centered in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, aims to understand the significant differences in the pedagogical styles at Cambridge and MIT, and determine hybrids that might further enhance deep conceptual learning of our students.

(iii) CMI has crafted a number of experiments that go to the heart of KE between universities and industry. For example, our Special Interest Groups are engaging senior executives in sectors not known for extensive interactions with universities (e.g., in construction, ground transportation, and retail). CMI facilitates these executives in defining the common threats and opportunities for their sector, and crafts programs of research, education, and other academic engagement. Through the National Competitiveness Network we have held seminars on regional prosperity and the requirements for new skills. We experiment with both human and electronic networks and spaces, such as D-Space, and electronic repository of research results, in which our partner is the MIT Libraries.

CMI has a plan to codify and disseminate each of the models developed. Working together, participants from industry and university will systematically review best practice, identify hypotheses, influence the KE experiments, monitor outcomes, and codify success.

CMI will then disseminate each model by identifying the appropriate partner with whom to work, and engage that partner at a formative stage. CMI will co-develop the models, and then disseminate them with and through the partner and their network. In this way, CMI will have widespread impact.

The initial phase ends in the fall of 2006, and discussions about a continuation are underway. There have been a number of lessons learned from the experience of CMI. We have found that establishing an effective U.S.-UK collaboration involves deep mutual commitment and a much greater effort than was anticipated. However, the returns are very high, raising the ambitions of all parties. One of our great strengths is our ability to provide effective and adequate seed-corn funding to new experiments and to exit once the initiative has proved itself by securing alternative funding.

What are the benefits of CMI to MIT? Numerous. At its highest level, CMI can be viewed as one of several key experiments at MIT aimed at understanding the development of the global university. CMI is about partnerships. Over the life of the project, CMI has developed strategic networks that allow us to interact deeply and broadly with peers. CMI has led to the development of the undergraduate student exchange program. Exchanging about 40 students per year, the opportunity to study at MIT and Cambridge is an important distinguishing feature for students considering coming to MIT. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, CMI has given us the opportunity to study ourselves, to understand a bit more about how MIT works, and therefore to learn how to have an even greater impact on our society.

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