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Letter to the community regarding the creation of an MIT Innovation Initiative

The following email was sent today to the Institute community by MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

To the members of the MIT Community,

In my Inaugural remarks, I celebrated MIT’s record of success in focusing brilliant, interdisciplinary teams on deeply difficult problems, from the Rad Lab and Lincoln Lab to the Energy Initiative and our countless partnerships with industry. I asked my faculty colleagues to identify grand challenges, where — through coordinated, Institute-wide, mission-driven research, and through the power of innovation and entrepreneurship — MIT could next make a unique contribution. Over the course of the year, I have received many excellent ideas and suggestions; today, I address two that have a natural connection.

Many members of our community expressed a strong interest in strengthening our innovation ecosystem. I heard equally passionate suggestions that MIT focus intensely on manufacturing. As we know from the recent report of our Production in the Innovation Economy (PIE) Commission, innovation and production are not simply stops on a one-way journey to the marketplace; they are tightly linked and mutually reinforcing activities on a two-way street of creative iteration. In other words, if we want to accelerate innovation, we must advance our work on production as well.

When we rolled out the PIE results in September, I expressed my intention to create an Institute-wide Initiative on Innovation. I write today to launch that process, name its leaders and identify the first next steps.

I am pleased to say that Fiona Murray, the Alvin J. Siteman (1948) Professor of Entrepreneurship, and Vladimir Bulović, the Fariborz Maseeh Professor of Emerging Technology, professor of electrical engineering and a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, have agreed to lead us in this effort. I have asked them to begin by engaging in conversations across the community – including faculty, staff, students and alumni -- and to provide me with a report by January 31st, 2014 that lays out recommendations for moving forward. To assist them, I have formed an Advisory Committee of faculty, named at the end of this letter.

My charge to and vision for this group can be found here. I am indebted to Profs. Murray and Bulović and to the entire Advisory Committee for taking on this important challenge. I look forward to seeing their recommendations. And I am eager to see how this Innovation Initiative can magnify the creative power of the people of MIT.


L. Rafael Reif

  • Pierre Azoulay, MIT Sloan
  • Martin Culpepper, Mechanical Engineering
  • Elazer Edelman, Health Sciences and Technology Program
  • John Fernandez, Architecture
  • Yoel Fink, Research Laboratory of Electronics
  • Eugene Fitzgerald, Materials Science and Engineering
  • David Gifford, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Karen Gleason, Chemical Engineering
  • Douglas Hart, Mechanical Engineering
  • David Mindell, Program in Science, Technology and Society
  • Dava Newman, Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Georgia Perakis, MIT Sloan
  • Julie Shah, Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Amy Smith, D-Lab
  • Marin Soljačić, Physics
  • Scott Stern, MIT Sloan
  • Timothy Swager, Chemistry
  • Ron Weiss, Biological Engineering
  • Sarah Williams, Urban Studies and Planning

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