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Deshpande Center names Sandler executive director

Leon Sandler
Leon Sandler

The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT today named Leon Sandler its new executive director.

Founded three years ago with an initial $20 million gift from Jaishree and Desh Deshpande, the Deshpande Center serves as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by providing resources to help leading-edge MIT research emerge from labs to the marketplace.

Since its inception, the center has funded 51 projects with more than $6 million in grants. Nine projects have developed into independently funded companies, having collectively raised more than $40 million in financing from top-tier venture capitalists.

Sandler takes on the executive director role with more than 25 years experience in general management, marketing, finance and business development at companies including Boston Consulting Group, Eastman Kodak, Texas Instruments and Digital Equipment.

Previously, Sandler ran his own consulting firm, Monmouth Group, where he transformed more than 20 growing businesses in a variety of technology sectors. Sandler has also served as the CEO of several start-ups and has assisted many other ventures as an interim executive or advisor.

"Thanks to the remarkable success of the Deshpande Center during its first four years, we were fortunate to have had an outstanding pool of candidates for this role. With its next phase upon us, it is time to innovate anew. We are extremely excited to bring someone with such extraordinary talent as Leon Sandler on board, and look forward to his leadership in the years ahead," said Charles Cooney, Faculty Director of the Deshpande Center.

Each spring and fall, the Deshpande Center awards $50,000 Ignition Grants to fund proof-of-concept explorations, and Innovation Grants, which range from $50,000 to $250,000, to MIT research teams that want to assess and reduce the technical and market risks associated with their innovations.

In addition to financial support, the Deshpande Center's network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and academic and legal experts helps grant recipients evaluate the commercial potential of their innovations and work toward the development of a business plan or licensing strategy.

Sandler has spent several years with MIT through his work with the MIT Venture Mentoring Service and MIT Enterprise Forum. He holds a bachelor of science and masters in science in chemical engineering from Natal University in South Africa, and a MBA from the Stanford Business School. He is the inventor of the Texas Instruments Financial Investment Analyst calculator and a recipient of the Wall Street Journal Finance Award.

About the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation

The Deshpande Center is part of the MIT School of Engineering and was established through an initial $20 million gift from Jaishree Deshpande and Desh Deshpande, the co-founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks. It serves as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting leading-edge research and bridging the gap between the laboratory and marketplace. The Deshpande Center supports a wide range of emerging technologies including biotechnology, medical devices, information technology, new materials, "tiny technologies" and environmental innovation. Additional information on the Deshpande Center's grant program, research portfolio and other entrepreneurial resources can be found at

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 10, 2006 (download PDF).

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