Policymakers, university and private sector leaders, and entrepreneurs from seven regions around the world are coming together to accelerate their regions' entrepreneurial ecosystems, thanks to the pilot cohort of the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP).
Now, MIT REAP has launched an online map to connect all individuals interested in joining forces with others to bolster their region's capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship. Individuals can describe their backgrounds, initiatives they are pursuing or planning, and areas of interest. In doing so, they will be able to broadcast what they are doing, connect with others in their region, and begin to mobilize a team in order to formally participate in the next 2-year MIT REAP cohort.
Such teams would express their interest through the MIT REAP application; regions are encouraged to apply now, as the 2014-16 cohort is expected to fill its eight slots by the end of June.
The MIT REAP Advantage
The MIT REAP program helps regions accelerate economic growth and job creation by educating, engaging and enabling teams of public and private partners from key international regions in the development and execution of a well-designed acceleration strategy focused on innovation-driven entrepreneurial activity. MIT's history of leadership in innovation-driven entrepreneurship uniquely positions MIT REAP to educate and engage groups to drive real action in their regions. In contrast to a consulting agreement, in which outside experts tell a region how it should operate, MIT REAP uses frameworks built upon MIT faculty research and practice to enable member regions to develop and implement strategies customized to their strengths and opportunities.
"Our focus is on education, but education that drives action," says MIT REAP director Allison Munichiello.
The program is focused around four 2.5-day educational workshops over a two-year period, designed to share global best practices as well as to critique and iterate regional strategy and intervention design. All regions in a cohort attend all workshops together, where they have time to interact with faculty, work together as a team and collaborate with other regions. Two of the workshops take place on the MIT campus, and the other two workshops take place in member regions to showcase other ecosystems and have a central action-learning-oriented case study.
Teams are comprised of public and private partners, one from each: government or economic development, entrepreneurial community, risk capital, universities and large corporations. This team diversity enables teams to fully represent the stakeholder groups that inform and influence a regional strategy to create programs and policy that bolster the innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystem.
A region is defined as having between approximately three million and 10 million people, a university strong in innovation, and enough critical mass to build support and create meaningful impact with enough policymaker and influential leader representation to make things happen. Some regions are comprised of entire countries, while other regions are areas or cities within a country.
The core MIT REAP faculty are Scott Stern, the School of Management Distinguished Professor of Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management; Fiona Murray, the faculty director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship as well as the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology and the Skolkovo Foundation Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship; Bill Aulet, the managing director of the Martin Trust Center and a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan; and Edward Roberts, the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology and the chair and founder of the Martin Trust Center.
The first MIT REAP cohort just held its third workshop in New Zealand last month. Participants from the seven regions in the 2012-2014 cohort — the Andalucía region of Spain; Finland; the city of Hangzhou in China; the city of Istanbul in Turkey; New Zealand; Scotland; and the Veracruz region of Mexico — all traveled to New Zealand to learn from MIT faculty and their cohort peers' experiences. They also presented the work they have done so far on their regional strategy, programs they proposed earlier and have started to implement, and showed effective ways they are using MIT REAP as a platform for change, visibility and relationship-building across stakeholder groups.
A key aspect of these in-person meetings is being able to share what sorts of initiatives work well to accelerate entrepreneurship, information that helps further refine the MIT REAP framework. Teams report that they benefit greatly from an environment of intellectual honesty, where teams can share their successes and failures in a supportive and constructive setting.
"In that sense, MIT REAP leverages the benefits of an education-centric collaborative consortium model, allowing everyone involved to gain a deeper understanding of entrepreneurial ecosystems across the globe, and apply that learning to improve their own strategic efforts," Munichiello says.
The workshops also function as checkpoints for the assignments that teams have been given. Broad assignments cover assessment, strategy development and implementation, while deep-dive assignments focus on specific topics, such as designing a prize to promote entrepreneurship, setting up the right kind of best-practice accelerator program or leveraging a region's diaspora network. In between workshops, teams have virtual meetings with faculty to present their findings and receive feedback, enabling them to continue momentum over the two-year period.
Apply to the Second Cohort
The second MIT REAP cohort will begin with teams gathering locally in their home regions on October 2013 and the first in-person workshop at MIT in February 2014. Slots have been filling up on a rolling application basis, and the program is anticipated to be fully subscribed by the end of June.
Applications are driven by a champion, often someone in a business-facing public policy, government or economic development role with significant political and social capital to drive action and cross-stakeholder relationships. Potential champions should both pin themselves to the map and fill out the REAP application.
Individuals and groups that are not yet ready to apply are still encouraged to pin themselves to the map, letting others in the region as well as the MIT REAP faculty and staff know of their interest in the program. Adding yourself to the map will help MIT REAP and other interested parties work to form teams in regions throughout the world.