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READ: University Entrepreneurship at MIT

The primary goals for most universities across the country are to teach and/or to research, but many are not able to translate these resources to efficiently benefit the economy and society on a greater scale. So why is it so important for a research university to be entrepreneurial? It is important because universities have always been a key factor to the innovation of any economy, and it is the responsibility of these institutions to transition into an increasingly entrepreneurial economy. Also, since universities have always been at the forefront of discovery, it is their obligation to use the vast resources they have to find solutions to the most difficult problems. An entrepreneurial university takes these resources and solutions and attempts to implement them in the most efficient and sustainable way. Now the question remains: “How does an institution behave as entrepreneurial?” To answer this problem we must analyze the successes of past models looking at the very beginning. This essay looks to the original MIT model and its success to help understand what is required to create an entrepreneurial university.

First, we must recognize what made MIT such a perfect fit to be, what is considered, the first entrepreneurial university. Rory P. O’Shea from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes his university’s “success is based on the science and engineering resource base at MIT; the quality of research faculty; supporting organisational mechanisms and policies such as MIT’s Technology Licensing Office; and the culture within MIT faculty that encourages entrepreneurship.” The first factor he mentions is vital to any research university. Having a strong “science and engineering resource base” such as the one at MIT is the first step an entrepreneurial university must reach. By achieving this goal the university can effectively produce valuable research. This element is closely tied with a high quality research faculty which is also required to create new technologies. The next component according to Rory P. O’Shea is the need of for a well coordinated support system for emerging research and an effective licensing office. The management of these technologies has always been a key aspect of entrepreneurship which is clearly explained in Peter F. Drucker’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This management allows MIT to prioritize and to allocate their resources effectively. As far as the MIT Technology Licensing Office goes, Rory P. O’Shea credits its success to the quickness, organization, and guidance of the system. He says,

“Rather than waiting for a technology pull, reacting to requests for licenses from interested companies, the TLO (Technology Licensing Office) encouraged faculty to promptly disclose inventions, then quickly and carefully evaluate the market value of inventions, and obtain protection of intellectual property. It also meets with venture capitalists to discuss new technologies and ongoing research at the Institute that may be appropriate for a start-up venture. This approach began at MIT at a time when such an approach was viewed as ‘unseemly’ by some of MIT’s peer institutions.”

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