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World industry summit to be held at MIT

The World Economic Forum and MIT announced Saturday that industry, government and academic leaders will participate in a four-day Industry Summit September 9-12 in Cambridge.

MIT and 30 of its faculty members, headed by Professor Fred Moavenzadeh, Macomber Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will help plan and organize the program for about 600 top leaders involved in 11 key industries across America and around the world.

The Industry Summit of the World Economic Forum is to be held in partnership with MIT, with the collaboration of Harvard University. It will involve activities on both campuses.

The World Economic Forum currently has nine forums focused on specific industry sectors: automotive, energy, engineering and construction, financial services, food and agriculture, health, information technologies, media and communications, and textiles. Two more are being organized for the Industry Summit: on transportation and on mining, metals, and materials.

"Increasingly, the security of nations will depend on economic rather than military strength," MIT President Charles M. Vest said at a news conference at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. "The cold war has ended. Business is truly global. Economic rivalry among nations has intensified. But we are interconnected as never before.

"In this era of rapid technological, economic, environmental and social change, it is crucially important that we cooperate on the global economic and environmental challenges ahead of us. If we are to succeed, I believe that industries, nations and universities will have to form new alliances across the globe." He said the summit is an opportunity to "take a broad look at how the latest knowledge, trends, and technologies will affect global industry strategies."

In a separate interview, Dr. Vest said the summit "is also an opportunity for MIT to listen to world industry leaders, right here at MIT. To maintain the relevance of our educational and research programs in today's world, it is more important than ever that we actively work to keep in close touch with the concerns of the global industrial community."

Dr. Vest and Maria Livanos Cattaui, managing director of the World Economic Forum, made the announcement in Davos, where about 1,300 top industrialists, government ministers (including 20 heads of state and government) and experts in science, academia, and the media met for six days of intensive discussions.

Ms. Cattaui said that "The Cambridge/Boston site is a logical one because of the extraordinary concentration of academic and industrial innovation in the area, and because of the enthusiasm of local and state governments and the local business community. The partnership with MIT brings together the global business network of the World Economic Forum with some of the best thinking in the world of science, technology and management."

The Republican Governor of Massachusetts, William F. Weld, and Democratic US Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts attended the announcement and expressed strong support. Gov. Weld commented, "In those industries which are expected to be the most prominent in the 21st century, Massachusetts has literally hundreds of companies within its borders. We think this is an environment fit for such a landmark forum as the first world Industry Summit." Weld added, "For many of the participants, the Industry Summit will be like old home week, as MIT and Harvard have been responsible for educating a remarkable portion of the world's economic leaders."

Sen. Kerry commented, "As a member of the US Senate Task Force on Economic Competitiveness, it's clear to me that America needs to increase its competitiveness. I hope this conference will also help develop solutions to industrial environmental challenges-solutions that at the same time create jobs and fuel economic growth," Sen. Kerry said.

The Industry Summit will be based on 11 parallel programs tailored to the particular technology and management interests of each industry sector.

Roughly half of participants' time will be spent in cross-industry discussions on the environment, manufacturing, and public policy; thematic workshops; and plenary sessions that bring together two or more industry groups to examine issues of broader concern.

A fundamental aim of the summit is to develop a common intellectual ground for a continuing dialogue on long-term strategic issues as well as on new models for action among industries, governments, and universities.

The World Economic Forum, founded in 1971, is a networking organization that brings together top decision-makers from business, government, and academia to encourage the exchange of ideas and the integration of perspectives on major global issues. Its constituents are primarily the chief and board-level executives of its 800 member companies from 50 countries.

Dr. Vest said "MIT faculty have developed highly successful methodologies for the in-depth, comprehensive study of industrial sectors by interdisciplinary teams. Industries studied during the past few years include automobiles, financial services, energy, and pharmaceuticals. In each of these sectors, and in others, groups of faculty and students are studying both new and mature technologies in the context of management challenges, the structure and markets, and the international policy and regulatory environments in which industrial firms operate."

These studies began with the 1986 appointment of the MIT Industrial Productivity Commission-16 senior faculty drawn from diverse fields of engineering, science, and management. They conducted a detailed two-year analysis of eight international industries, described in the highly acclaimed 1989 book, Made in America: Regaining the Productive Edge.

Another key innovation is MIT's Leaders for Manufacturing Program, an ongoing partnership launched in 1988 that has brought MIT together with 13 major US manufacturing firms to discover and translate into practice the principles that produce world-class manufacturing. In 1990, in another major study, the MIT International Motor Vehicle Program published its conclusions about "lean production" in the book, The Machine That Changed the World.

In 1991, MIT founded the Industrial Performance Center, an Institute-wide initiative in research and education which builds on the work summarized in Made in America.

Other recent influential books from MIT include The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, by Peter Senge of the MIT Sloan School of Management, describing business organizations that will excel in the future; and Head to Head: The Coming Economic Battle Among Japan, Europe and America, by MIT Sloan School Dean Lester Thurow.

A version of this article appeared in the February 3, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 21).

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