January 11, 2013
James Utterback, David J. McGrath jr (1959) Professor of Management and Innovation, Professor of Engineering Systems, and one of SDM’s most popular professors, was one of seven "exemplars of excellence" honored by KU Leuven in June 2012 at its bi-annual Leuven International Forum. KU Leuven, located in Flanders, Belgium, has been a center of learning since it was founded in 1425. The international forum is primarily a networking event that brings together Belgian, European and international leaders from academia, industry, and government for the advancement of knowledge and service to society.
Utterback — lauded as one of the pioneers of research on innovation at and by spin-offs — spoke to attendees about the confluence of different fields such as biotechnology and nanotechnology. He described this fusion of disciplines as necessary, but cautioned that the benefits of interdisciplinary research must not be left to chance and innovators must purposefully steer the process.
KU Leuven reported that in discussing the problematic issues of innovation, Utterback mentioned the link between automation and unemployment, pointing out that 90 per cent of employees still work in established industries. "It is therefore important to invest in new fields in a well-considered and balanced manner." And what is the secret to ‘spin-off sauce’, as Utterback himself described it? "Young entrepreneurs are attracted to MIT because they know we support their ideas." (Video | Interview | Laudatio)