A Systems Approach to Fostering Innovation Ecosystems within Academic and Business Communities


MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar SeriesRajesh Nair

Rajesh Nair, Visiting Scholar, Tata Center for Technology and Design, MIT; Founder, Chairman, and CTO, Degree Controls, Inc.; and SDM Alumnus

Date: December 1, 2014

Download the presentation slides (PPT)

Download the presentation slides (PDF)

About the Presentation

Although startups are key to economic growth and job creation, many people—particularly students—have a negative attitude toward entrepreneurship. Fear of failure, constant uncertainty, and financial constraints combine with a lack of training in needed skills to discourage potential entrepreneurs.

In this webinar, Rajesh Nair, a visiting scholar at MIT’s Tata Center, successful entrepreneur, and SDM alumnus, will describe a systems-based experiment conducted in India at small engineering colleges with no active entrepreneurship initiatives. This research addressed the following questions:

  • Is it possible to bring about a positive change in the average student’s attitude toward entrepreneurship?
  • Can suitable ecosystems be created at colleges to provide nurturing environments in which entrepreneurship and innovation can flourish?

Nair will describe:

  • a specially designed experiential curriculum and training in innovation, fabrication, and entrepreneurship;
  • how students created new ventures by interacting with their local communities to validate problems for business opportunities, ideate solutions, and fabricate prototypes—in effect creating healthy entrepreneurship ecosystems within their academic institutions and surrounding communities;
  • how these strategies can be applied and adapted by other academic institutions; and
  • how students’ attitudes toward entrepreneurship changed.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us.

About the Speaker

Rajesh Nair is a researcher at MIT who is developing methods to catalyze the work of community innovators and entrepreneurs to create local entrepreneurship ecosystems. His experiments in India have generated several startups (see Teaching Entrepreneurship in India). His current mission is to create 1,000 entrepreneurs in the next three years using the method he developed at MIT.

Nair is a product designer and a serial entrepreneur. The company he founded most recently, Degree Controls Inc., serves companies in the thermal design of high-reliability electronic products in medical, information technology, military, and consumer markets. He has developed several industry-standard products and holds 13 US patents. He received the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the New Hampshire High Tech Council and was a finalist at Ernst & Young’s EoY-New England program. As an MIT SDM alumnus, he holds an MS in engineering and management. He also has master’s degrees in manufacturing engineering (from the University of Massachusetts—Amherst) and electronic product design (from the Indian Institute of Science—Bangalore). He founded the annual TechTop National Innovation Competition in India, which is currently in its ninth year. As a visiting scholar at MIT’s Tata Center, he focuses on commercializing technologies developed at the center. He recently delivered a TEDxBeaconStreet talk on starting up entrepreneurs.

About the Series

The MIT System Design and Management Program Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.