Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation

The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation was established in early 2002 through a generous gift of $20 million from Jaishree and Desh Deshpande, the cofounder and chairman of Sycamore Networks Inc. The center, officially launched on October 15, 2002, was created to serve as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting research of MIT faculty and students and facilitating collaboration among entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, innovative businesses, and MIT faculty. Executive Director Krisztina Holly spearheads the Deshpande Center's efforts, along with faculty director Charles L. Cooney, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering. The fund to support the Deshpande Center is administered by a Steering Committee that includes Desh Deshpande, Alex d'Arbeloff, chairman of the corporation, and Thomas Magnanti, dean, School of Engineering.

The Deshpande Grant Program provides research funds that permit MIT faculty and students to create and investigate new technologies, and it supports the transfer of new knowledge and technologies from the university to young companies. The grant program consists of two types of awards: Ignition grants of up to $50,000 and Innovation Program grants for up to $250,000. Each application is reviewed by multiple experts in two stages: preproposal and final form. Awards are announced twice annually.

Through its sponsored events, the Deshpande Center connects faculty members and students with members of the emerging technology industry. The Deshpande Center conducts workshops for faculty entrepreneurs, supports special seminars that focus on technology innovation, holds "open house" events for grant recipients, presents Ignition Forums on various technologies, and hosts an annual conference, the Deshpande IdeaStream Symposium.

Deshpande Grant Awards

The Deshpande Center awarded 17 grant awards in fiscal year 2003 totaling $1.63 million. The first announcement of grant awards, five Ignition grants and four Innovation Program grants, was made on October 15, 2002. On March 3, 2003, the Deshpande Center announced another eight grant awards to MIT faculty. The awards support a wide range of emerging technologies, including biotechnology, information technology, new materials, tiny technology, and energy innovations.

Ignition Grants

Up to $50,000, Ignition grants target projects focusing on novel, enabling, and potentially useful ideas in all areas of technology. Though it might enable only exploratory experiments to establish proof of concept, an Ignition grant can position projects to receive further funding, such as an Innovation Program grant, to take a concept to full development.

Academic Year 2003 Ignition Grant Recipients

Marc Baldo: Exploiting Molecular Conformation Changes

Exploiting the properties of newly developed organic molecules, instead of semiconductors, may lead to faster and more powerful computers.

Vladimir Bulovic: Nanocrystal Non-Volatile Memory Devices

This new innovation could lead to smaller, faster, and lower voltage memory for computers, cameras, and other electronic devices by combining organic chemistry and quantum dot technology.

Yet-Ming Chiang: Ionic Colloidal Crystals

This is a novel class of materials with broad applications from optical networking to drug delivery that could spawn a whole field of materials research.

Fredo Durand: Contrast Reduction for Digital Photography and Video

This new image-processing technology could be the key to taking full advantage of new high dynamic range digital cameras.

Eric Feron: Slow Down Warning System for Safe Highways

This warning system would make the highways safer for drivers, even if a small fraction of vehicles had them installed.

Woodie Flowers: Active Joint Brace for Assisted Motion

The active joint brace could assist patients with neuromuscular disorders, such as stroke and Parkinson's disease, to stay independent longer and rehabilitate faster.

William Freeman: Image Analysis for Digital Cameras

This digital imaging technology would enable cameras to recognize objects, making it easier to edit photographs and possibly enhance them automatically.

Sang-Gook Kim: Carbon Nanotube Manufacturing

This new method for manufacturing and handling carbon nanotubes could address a market need to help these structures live up to their promise as a new semiconductor technology.

Scott Manalis: Label-Free Detection of Proteins

This new protein-detection technology could lead to a faster, easier to way to diagnose disease and develop pharmaceuticals.

Jovan Popovic: Reusable Deformations for Computer Animation

This innovation would make the highly time consuming work of animating characters much faster and easier.

Emanuel Sachs: Metallization on Solar Cells

This novel method for applying circuitry to solar cells could make them much more affordable and energy efficient.

Yang Shao-Horn: Novel Air Electrode Designs for Metal-Air Batteries and Fuel Cells

This new electrode technology could lead to a more inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and efficient energy storage method.

Francesco Stellacci: Bridging Nano-Lithography with Industrial Production

This innovative lithography approach could solve the most elusive challenge with nanotechnology: scaling the manufacturing process.

Innovation Program Grants

For as much as $250,000, an Innovation Program grant benefits projects that have established proof of concept and identified an R&D path and IP strategy. Each grant helps a project build a package to bring to venture capitalists or companies that might invest in its technology.

Academic Year 2003 Innovation Program Grant Recipients

Michael Ernst: Automatically Generated System Specs

The ever-increasing complexity and failure of software has been in the news, but this innovative technology promises a new way to automatically understand, test, and debug highly complex software systems.

Doug Hart: High Speed 3-D Imaging

This technology aims to convert any ordinary CCD camera (from microscopes to surveillance cameras) into a 3-D imaging system that can be used for wide-ranging applications from endoscopy to homeland security, quality control, and entertainment.

Robert Langer: Tissue Engineering

This promising technology for growing new blood vessels addresses a critical need in engineering artificial tissues in order to stem the $400-billion-per-year cost, in the United States alone, of tissue loss and organ failure.

Alexander Slocum: The Nanogate

This new micro-electro-mechanical systems device will be tested for a wide range of applications, from a highly tunable RC filter for cheaper communications devices to a valve for microfluidics that can lead to faster drug discovery.


Entrepreneurial Community

The Deshpande Center seeks to build partnerships with the internal and external entrepreneurial community to facilitate the conversion of ideas to inventions and catalyze the move of innovation to the marketplace.

Sloan School of Management

Deshpande Center grant recipients participated as technology case studies in the Sloan School's 15.393 Technology and Entrepreneurial Strategy class. In October 2002, three grant recipients in Tiny Technology presented their research to the class, and the students engaged in discussions about potential applications with attractive market opportunities. This type of idea exchange enhances the learning experience for Sloan business students and leads to a greater understanding by Deshpande Center grant recipients of how to focus their research to improve chances of commercialization.

Early spring semester, Deshpande Center grant applicants were given the opportunity to present their ideas in Noubar Afeyan's 15.390 New Enterprises class, get feedback, and team up with entrepreneurs to provide the technologies for exciting new business plans. The class received almost a dozen new business ideas. By May, the faculty had much more compelling business cases for their research, and the students had written business plans based on innovative technologies being developed on the MIT campus. The students presented the plans to Boston-area venture capitalists at the end of the semester.

Two Deshpande Center projects were successful in the MIT $50K Competition this May. Professor Eric Feron's team was a finalist. Professor Doug Hart's team won a $1K award in the fall and the $10K runner-up award in the spring. They are moving forward with a start-up and by the end of the fiscal year were actively speaking with several venture capital firms.

Deshpande Center Events

Deshpande Center events seek to bring together the components needed for MIT technologies to reach commercialization.

Faculty Entrepreneurship Workshops

The Deshpande Center holds semimonthly workshops for faculty members who are interested in entrepreneurship. The workshops address the unique challenges of faculty entrepreneurs and the development of innovations to serve market needs. Presenters for 2003 were Robert Langer, who shared his extensive knowledge of entrepreneurship through case studies of three of his own start-ups; Steve Senturia, "From Academia to Commercial Enterprise: A Case Study on Polychromix"; and Alec Dingee and Sherwin Greenblatt, "Tales from MIT Venture Mentoring Service: Most Common Entrepreneurial Mistakes and How to Avoid Them."

Ignition Forums

Ignition Forums seek to spark new inventions that address real market opportunities. Each focuses on a particular technology or industry area, with a panel of experts comprising investors, analysts, and thought leaders in that industry who serve to define market needs.

The first Ignition Forum, "Portable Energy," was on March 10, 2003. The panel included Professor Jeff Tester, Department of Chemical Engineering (moderator); Brian Barnett, managing director, TIAX LLC; Jason Howard, energy technologies manager, Motorola; David Prend, partner, Rockport Capital Partners; and Kailash Shukla, power engineer, US Army OFW-TPO. Special guests in attendance were Dr. Desh Deshpande and Professors Yet-Ming Chiang, Yang Shao-Horn, and Emanuel Sachs.

The next two Ignition Forums occurred in conjunction with the first Deshpande IdeaStream Symposium on May 14, 2003. An Ignition Forum on "Data Security" was cochaired by Professors Stuart Madnick, Sloan School of Management, and Ronald Rivest, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The panelists included Jeffrey Schiller, network manager, MIT Information Systems; Mark McGovern, In-Q-Tel; Paul Kocher, president and CEO, Cryptography Research; and Peter Kuper, SG Cowan. An Ignition Forum on "Post-Genomic Challenges in Drug Discovery and Development" was cochaired by Professors Ram Sasisekharan, Biological Engineering Division, and Stan Finkelstein, Sloan School of Management. The panelists included Terry McGuire, Polaris Venture Partners; Alan Crane, CEO, Momentum; Viren Mehta, managing partner, Mehta Partners, LLC; and Brian Healy, vice president, Merck.

Deshpande IdeaStream Symposium

On May 13 and 14, 2003, the Deshpande Center held its first annual IdeaStream Symposium, aimed at connecting MIT researchers with the entrepreneurial community. In his keynote address, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney praised MIT's economic engine and underscored the importance of MIT and the Deshpande Center's mission—catalyzing the transfer of innovative research from MIT's labs to commercialization and beyond—and its impact on Massachusetts and the rest of the nation.

The following day included plenary lectures, discussion groups, feedback sessions, lab tours, and networking that sparked a meaningful exchange of ideas about new and future opportunities for innovation in the marketplace. The event featured a preview of Deshpande Center grant recipients through presentations and poster sessions.

Other Events

The Deshpande Center has collaborated with student groups on events on and off campus. The first Ignition Forum was cohosted by MIT TechLink and the MIT Tiny Tech Club. On October 23, Deshpande and the $50K Competition cohosted a panel discussion on intellectual property. Joined by experts in the field, the center led a discussion about why it is important to protect ideas and how to do it effectively. In January, the Deshpande Center and the $50K Competition cohosted a Show-N-Tell teambuilding dinner that encouraged participants to bring something to show in their areas of interest and brought together students, faculty, and others from across campus to build start-up teams.

Administrative Changes

Kendra Boccelli joined the Deshpande Center team from Boccelli & Company as a contractor in September 2002 to coordinate media outreach. Isadora Deese joined the Deshpande Center in late October 2002 as our new office manager. The center moved into temporary office space in Room 3-282.

Additional Donations and Fundraising

The Deshpande Center has received two additional donations in fiscal year 2003: an expendable grant from Chris Schaepe of Lightspeed Venture Partners and an endowed Ignition grant totaling $1 million from the Lemelson Foundation.

Krisztina Holly
Executive Director

More information on the Deshpande Center can be found on the web at


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