The future of manufacturing is here, and it’s in 3D

Alan Mulally, SF ’82, the legendary turnaround-artist who resuscitated Ford Motor Company, has always stayed focused on what’s next. An early proponent of 3D printing, he said in an earlier SF Leadership Blog post, “Metal is in the near future. With the level of accuracy that is possible through this process, we are seeing a sudden and dramatic improvement in the quality and manufacturability of parts. It’s both economical and efficient because spare parts don’t have to be warehoused. Almost any part can be produced on demand—and its file can live in the cloud. Three-dimensional printing will revolutionize the manufacturing world.”

The company that arguably is creating the noisiest buzz in the 3D space is Burlington, Massachusetts-based Desktop Metal—one of BostInno’s “17 Boston tech companies to watch in 2017.”  CEO Ric Fulop, SF ’06, launched the startup in October of 2015 to bring metal 3D printing to design and manufacturing companies across the globe. Fulop and his team have raised $97 million in equity funding, including a $45 million round of funding led by Google, BMW, and Lowe’s. Previous investors include NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lux Capital, GE Ventures, Saudi Aramco, and 3D printing leader Stratasys. Desktop Metal is preparing for a product launch in late 2017.

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Scaling Up Entrepreneurship: Taking the Individual Model Regional

Scott Stern’s goal is to improve the global economy—one local economy at a time. The David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology and cofounder and director of the Innovation Policy Working Group at the National Bureau of Economic Research is working to strengthen regional economies around the world through entrepreneurship.

Stern makes a distinction in the kind of entrepreneurship he’s trying to promote—the innovation-fueled kind. Innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDEs) involves the development of global enterprises that are commercializing technical or societal innovations with a clear competitive advantage and high growth potential. Not all new enterprises can be categorized as IDE—an individual launching a chain of dry-cleaning shops, for example, would be an entrepreneur of a small-medium enterprise (SME), not of an IDE.

Stern’s efforts are part of the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program (REAP). During two-year engagements with REAP, partner regions around the world form multidisciplinary teams to build and implement customized regional strategies to enhance their IDE ecosystems.

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Smart entrepreneurship delivers jobs

Jobs. It may be the most loaded four-letter word in the American lexicon. The Great Recession shaped the national mindset so that job creation and economic development have grown into a veritable obsession. Nearly every political leader ranks the generation of employment opportunities at or near the top of his or her agenda. With all this focus on jobs, however, we have yet to develop a durable consensus about how to ensure that high-growth businesses survive and thrive. And unless they survive and thrive, they can’t very well generate new jobs.

Scott Stern, David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology and cofounder and director of the Innovation Policy Working Group at the National Bureau of Economic Research, has spent the last decade deconstructing this challenge from two perspectives. In the classroom, he has developed a curriculum that provides innovation-oriented entrepreneurs with a robust set of tools to make strategic decisions in a disciplined and systematic way. He has written 15 cases on the subject in the last five years and has made all the course materials available free of charge on the Entrepreneurial Strategy class website.

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