MIT’s Entrepreneurial Eco-System

Administrators and Professors are still exhibiting a wide variety of reactions to the growth in campus entrepreneurship. Andrzej Zwaniecki of America.gov wrote a nice piece on the rise of entrepreneurship on US campuses.

The piece offers some interesting insights and coverage of the growth of entrepreneurship and institutions on MITs campus over the past decade or so. What this confirms is that even for a school like MIT, (huge technical talent,  international prominence, and located in a hotbed of startup activity/financing), active entrepreneurship on campus is still a relatively new phenomenon. While there are many schools with fewer assets to begin with, entrepreneurship on campus,  just like entrepreneurship in general, demands innovation and often favors the small, less inhibited actor.

From the article,

In the past, entrepreneurship programs were available only to business school students. This started to change in the 1990s when educators realized that students in science, engineering and other disciplines had to have entrepreneurship and leadership skills to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

In 1970, no more than a handful of such programs existed. By the early 2000s, about 1,600 universities and colleges offered 2,200 entrepreneurship courses, according to a 2003 study.  And those courses have grown in popularity among students.

Edward Roberts, the chairman of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, says that because of growing demand for graduates who can lead, negotiate and push new ideas and products, even MIT, which had a long tradition of entrepreneurship, had to change.

Roberts started the center in 1996 to couple technical expertise with management skills across different departments and schools within MIT.

Other initiatives such as a center for technological innovation and a venture mentoring service followed, creating what Roberts calls a “positive feedback loop.” MIT’s strong entrepreneurial reputation attracts students with entrepreneurial ambitions who in turn reinforce MIT’s reputation.

“In the last 10 years, we have seen a rapid growth in MIT-related startup ventures,” Roberts said.

About 150 MIT-related companies are founded each year, according to the center. The institute, along with its neighbor and competitor, Harvard University, takes credit for creating Route 128, a cluster of science- and technology-based companies around Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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