When MIT tells how to create your own ecosystem, Part I

Last November I had the chance to do a study tour at MIT. I attended the 2009 Research and Development Conference and the probably more interesting MIT ILP Regional Competitiveness Workshop Series.  Here, I will report about the latter, even though it was terrific to listen to leading scientists such as Daniel Nocera and Angela Belcher. In fact, the aim of the workshop was to tell the audience how it could be possible to re-create somewhere else the Boston eco-system, i.e. that environment “fostering Innovation and encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation”.

Dome alight

According to MIT, there are several elements needed to create and to make such an environment  self-sustaining. The most important are probably:

  • Educational institutions such as MIT. Well, they claim, their students, graduates, researchers and professors are more than encouraged to create companies based on their activities in classes or labs. That could sound a bit kind of conceited, but let me give you some (amazing) numbers: in February 2009 there were 25,800 currently active companies founded by MIT alumni, they employed 3.3 milion people, their revenues would make the 17th largest economy in the world and their annual sales even the 11th. But, why does it happen? Well, this could probably be discussed in the next coming posts, if you wish. For now,  you can download the executive summary of the research giving these figures in the Box.net widget on your right: MIT_Kauffman_Report.pdf.
  • State & Local Initiatives. The Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship had done a talk and I picked up the following suggestions: provide infrastructures as well as cinemas, they are both needed to build vital communities therefore prosperity; support no-profit entrepreneurship consulting firms; encourage film or TV productions in your area. Surprisingly to me, he was so proud of the fact that the Boston area has recently outranked Paris in terms of money spent by film studios and producers.
  • Entrepreneurship support. It seems that around Boston there are plenty of people giving such a support for free. It says that they have received so much by this place that they are just happy to give something back now. Well, I’m pretty sure some of them hope to come across the next big thing but the point is that they are there for you. At MIT you can count up to 5 different organizations offering kind of add-as-you-grow services: the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation and the MIT Entrepreneurship Center are worth a look.

In Part II, there will be Competitions, Corporate R&D labs and Start-up companies. By the way, would you add some other element?

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About Floriano Bonfigli
Floriano Bonfigli, husband and father. European rather than Italian. Educated at University of Bologna, Strathclyde University and Imperial College of London. Already worked as Research Engineer, Composite Engineer and Structural Analyst in the automotive, aerospace and marine sectors. Also spent some years in IT Product Management. Gerson Lerhman Group Council Member and Educator. Studied Innovation Technology & Management at ISTAO. Currently taking buzz out of Innovation at We Innov8! Last but not least, soccer player and basketball viewer...

5 Responses to When MIT tells how to create your own ecosystem, Part I

  1. Kyle Psaty says:

    Hello Floriano,
    This is a great list.

    Others I would suggest are:

    -Encourage support from the major players: If we look at the innovation ecosystem as a crowded riverbank, then we see that often the littlest saplings can become the biggest trees. In order for growth to be insured, the big players need to support the little guys who aren’t trying to compete with them. By encouraging startups, the big guys ensure a more vibrant ecosystem from which to pull talent

    -Avoid non-compete agreements and contracts: By making it easier for companies to spin off, localized sectors become stronger. This also works to keep local talent in a region. By making it possible for employees to get involved with the startups they see and believe in, the whole ecosystem can become stronger.

    Thanks again for a great post.

    • Floriano says:

      Hi Kyle,

      I see a kind of win-win strategy coming out from your contribution; very good point indeed if you want your ecosytem self-supporting.

      Thanks for sharing.

  2. Floriano,

    I appreciate what you have to say about the MIT community, but I think we need to always THINK BIG and BROAD. I have the utmost respect for everything MIT does, but I think sometimes it leads to people forgetting there are 67 other schools in the great Boston region and hundreds of startups not related to MIT.

    I believe it is through collaboration and cross-pollination of people, ideas and opportunities that the greatest gains can be made. I hope that mixed in with many of the great MIT-exclusive programs, that the greater community can be connected and embraced.

    Together, we are all stronger.

    • Floriano says:

      Jason,
      thanks for your great comment, very appreciated.

      You’re quite right. All of us, coming from the “Old Continent”, tend to be kind of fascinated by the MIT brand and do not know that much of what is going on along the whole Route 128.

      Thanks for pointing out that there is much more, which makes your ecosystem even more interesting as a model to study.

      • It definitely is an interesting ecosystem.

        The most exciting part is the transformation it is undergoing now. We have many new programs emerging to promote entrepreneurship and an overall revitalization of the community. You can find this in competitions like the MIT100K and MassChallenge, in incubator programs that are private like BetaSpring and TechStars to school programs at Babson College and Northeastern University, to new, young entrepreneur organizations like DartBoston and the site I run, Greenhorn Connect.

        Hopefully you’ll be hearing about some of these programs as they continue to develop and contribute to the environment here.

        Best,
        -Jason

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