Recommended Articles and Reports

What is the future of education, research, and technology commercialization?

The articles and reports I have collected here not only verify the importance the world places on scientific and technological invention and innovation, but convey the depth and specificity of thinking about invention and innovation that others have already produced.

These documents may give you comfort that Polytechnic’s intention — as outlined in our Strategic Plan — to become an exemplar of technology, applied science, engineering, and technology management education and research for the 21st century is focused on the right priorities and that we are headed in the right direction.

But, at the same time, they should raise concerns that the i²e (invention, innovation and entrepreneurship) field is already getting crowded and that distinctiveness at Polytechnic and NYU will require more than modest change. Without a strong transformational approach, we are unlikely to be the excellent, unique and consequential institution we have in mind.

I hope these articles and reports ignite fresh ideas and generate concerns and new solutions for Polytechnic as part of NYU.

Below is a list of recommended reading my “Cliffs Notes” summaries.

Very truly yours,
Jerry M. Hultin

The Strategic Plan for Polytechnic: 2007- 2010 (PDF)
Approved by the faculty and trustees of Polytechnic in the spring of 2007, this plan is the core document for defining our future. It needs a fresh coat of paint that incorporates, at a minimum, the assets and resources of NYU. The plan has four central themes:

  • First, it is organized around the three principals of excellence, distinctiveness and resources.
  • Second, it features i²e along with a three point focus on urban, health and wellness, and information technology.
  • Third, it uses New York City and its assets as a source of competitive advantage for Polytechnic.
  • Fourth, it makes “global” a key element of our education.

Just Manic Enough: Seeking Perfect Entrepreneurs
David Segal, The New York Times, September 18, 2010

From new curricula to our Inno/Vention idea competition, we’re encouraging our students to be entrepreneurial. To be successful, we need to understand what traits we can help cultivate in students. This article shines a new light on characteristics that we’ve probably witnessed in the entrepreneurs we know but when we see them in students we may tend to discourage, or even be alarmed at: “grandiosity, an elevated and expansive mood, racing thoughts and little need for sleep.”

David Segal writes: “The attributes that make great entrepreneurs, the experts say, are common in certain manias, though in milder forms and harnessed in ways that are hugely productive. Instead of recklessness, the entrepreneur loves risk. Instead of delusions, the entrepreneur imagines a product that sounds so compelling that it inspires people to bet their careers, or a lot of money, on something that doesn’t exist and may never sell.”

If we’re going to help create entrepreneurs, we need to learn how to help them take advantage of natural tendencies that others may try to squelch.

Blueprint for American Prosperity: Boosting Productivity, Innovation and Growth through a National Innovation Foundation (PDF)
Robert Atkinson; Howard Wial; April 2008

This “blueprint” was issued by the ITIF and Brookings Institute and calls for $2 billion of funding a year for a new National Innovation Foundation, modeled on the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. For a quick read, see the Executive Summary on page 2 and Box 1 on page 6.

Innovation Nation (PDF)
U.K. Department for Universities, Innovation, and Skills, March 2008

While the U.K.’s Prime Minister Gordan Brown has hit some troubled waters lately, he has shown unanticipated intellectual acumen by leading two major efforts to improve education and innovation in the United Kingdom. First, Mr. Brown’s interest in education, and especially its trans-Atlantic aspects, has led him to “knight” NYU President John Sexton as the American leader of a new cross-Atlantic panel of U.S. and U.K. academics.

Mr. Brown’s second major effort is a new work called Innovation Nation, a report by his Department for Universities, Innovation, and Skills that advocates increased support for innovation in small and medium businesses through government procurement that seeks out innovative and inventive products and services. Its Executive Summary states: “Innovation is essential to the U.K.’s future economic prosperity and quality of life. To raise productivity, foster competitive businesses, meet the challenges of globalization and to live within our environmental and demographic limits, the U.K. must excel at all types of innovation.”

National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges for the 21st Century
David R. Butcher, ThomasNet; February 19, 2008

The NAE asked an international group of leading technological thinkers to select fourteen grand engineering challenges for the coming century. This article by David R. Butcher gives an overview of the project and lists the challenges, at least five of which are matches for Polytechnic’s three priorities of urban, health and wellness, and information technology. For a more in-depth look, visit the Grand Challenges project web site.

Engineering for a Changing World (PDF)
James J. Duderstadt, University of Michigan Millennium Project; 2008

This “roadmap to the future of engineering practice, research, and education” is a major work headed by James J. Duderstadt, President Emeritus and University Professor of Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan, under the aegis of the loftily named “Millennium Project.” It masses some of the best thinking on engineering and, whether we agree with this work or not, it provides a solid framework against which we can test and measure our own course. If we differ with its conclusions, we will need a clear rationale for the alternative course we take.

The Post-Scientific Society
Christopher T. Hill, Issues in Science and Technology; Fall 2007

Christopher T. Hill, educated as an engineer, proposes that not just innovation but integration of knowledge is the key to high value education and real economic development. When you read this provocative article, ask yourself two questions: 1) Is this a new roadmap for how Polytechnic’s and NYU’s future education should look? and 2) Should we invite Mr. Hill to Polytechnic to learn more about his ideas?

The 2007 State New Economy Index:  Benchmarking Economic Transformation in the States (PDF)
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; February 2007

This groundbreaking report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) sets out a new way to evaluate the innovative capacity of states. Not only can many of the metrics proposed by the ITIF be used to define a robust university, but the whole report helps draw a picture of the kind of new-age social and economic systems we should be helping to design and prepare students to operate in.

In the first 23 pages of this nearly 100 page study, you will get the gist of the study’s conclusions: page 3 identifies the broad characteristics of the New Economy; page 8 includes a telling comparison with states in India; and pages 11 and 12 list the five broad categories that capture what is new about the New Economy:

  • knowledge jobs
  • globalization
  • economic dynamism
  • transformation to a digital economy
  • technology innovation capacity

As a test, ask yourself: How well does NYU-Poly do as an educational institution in the five categories?

Competitiveness Index: Where America Stands (PDF)
Council on Competitiveness; 2007

An easy-to-read and quick-to-understand graphic look at the challenges and opportunities of the U.S. economy in relationship to the increasingly robust global economy. It emphasizes the importance of universities, research and development, innovation and invention, and new companies and entrepreneurship, all integral to Polytechnic’s approach to I2E. By the way, Polytechnic is a member of the Council on Competitiveness. Suggested pages to focus on: 73 - 79 and 95 - 98; then sample all of Part 4, Foundations of U.S. Competitiveness and Sources of Future Prosperity, starting on page 64.

Universities, Innovation and the Competitiveness of Local Economies (PDF)
Dr. Richard Lester, MIT Industrial Performance Center; December 2005

Is economic development (new companies, new jobs, new products and services) a university role? In this important article, Dr. Richard Lester, the leader of MIT’s Industrial Performance Center, reviews the findings of a global study and discusses “how universities can support local economic development through their contributions to local industrial innovation processes.” For a fast read, see the Executive Summary on page 3 and Conclusion on pages 29 - 31.

Necessity as the Mother of Tenure?
Dr. Erich Kunhardt, NYU-Poly Physics Professor and Former Provost,The New York Times; December 14, 2004

Written in 2004, Dr. Erich Kunhardt’s Op-Ed proposes that the academic mission should be expanded to include not only research as discovery, but the transfer of such research into products and services.

The New Frontier of Experience Innovation (PDF)
C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy, MIT Sloan Management Review; Summer 2003

Many of us know C.K. Prahalad and appreciate his work in using new approaches to relieving poverty and building economies in the developing world. This MIT Sloan article talks about creating “experience environments — supported by a network of companies and consumer communities — to co-create unique value for individual customers.”  I have included this article because, in pointing to a new way to invent and innovate, it may be describing what a Technology Innovation Center of the future, perhaps operated by Polytechnic, should look like.