4 Ways MIT Advanced Campus Entrepreneurship This School Year

[Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories examining entrepreneurship on MIT’s campus and beyond.]

MIT has been a prolific generator of entrepreneurs for decades. But in recent years, the Institute has ramped up campus resources for would-be company builders, thanks in part to a more supportive attitude from administrators.

Xconomy chronicled those efforts and culture shift in an in-depth story in May 2016. Now, as the latest school year comes to a close, it seems like a good time to recap some of MIT’s new entrepreneurship initiatives from the past year.

The latest news is that Bill Aulet—the managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and a senior lecturer in MIT’s Sloan School of Management—has been appointed a “professor of the practice.” The title does not come with tenure, but it’s a rank given to “practitioners who have developed a high level of expertise in fields of particular importance to the MIT academic program and who also demonstrate a deep commitment to teaching and research,” according to MIT’s website.

Over the past decade, MIT has bestowed this title on average twice a year, and there are currently 25 professors of the practice on campus (not counting Aulet), according to a spokeswoman. Others who have received the title include MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito, who was appointed last year, and the late Alex d’Arbeloff, a co-founder of Teradyne and former MIT Corporation chairman.

Bill Aulet

So, why is Aulet’s new title notable? He and Ed Roberts, an MIT professor who founded the Trust Center, both see it as another sign of Institute administrators’ growing recognition of the importance of entrepreneurship. Campus support for aspiring entrepreneurs has typically been “bottom up,” Aulet says.

“Now this is really top down, pervasive, ubiquitous acknowledgement of the importance of entrepreneurship,” says Aulet, who is also an Xconomist. “What a signal that sends.”

Here are three other notable developments in MIT’s entrepreneurial support initiatives over the past school year. (The list is not meant to be comprehensive.)

—The Engine: While other universities had formed venture capital funds in recent years, MIT held back. That changed with the launch of The Engine last October, an organization that combines a startup incubator, a $150 million venture fund, and other resources. MIT chipped in $25 million for the fund.

MIT leaders have said The Engine will not exclusively support companies with ties to the Institute, but the focus on robotics, manufacturing, energy, and other complex technologies means that MIT will likely be a fertile source of investment opportunities.

The Engine is led by Katie Rae, a local investor, entrepreneur, and former managing director of Techstars Boston.

—STEX25: Last fall, MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program launched STEX25, a startup accelerator focused on helping startups form partnerships with big companies. The program is led by Trond Undheim, an Oracle veteran who is a senior industrial liaison officer at MIT.

—DesignX: This new accelerator from MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning aims to nurture ventures working on innovations in architecture, urban planning, real estate, media, and art. The program’s faculty director is Dennis Frenchman, and its executive director is Gilad Rosenzweig, an architect and urban planner. The demo event for startups that participated in DesignX’s first session takes place Wednesday.

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