Undaunted by global pandemic, MIT REAP’s strategy to accelerate regional innovation-driven entrepreneurship nimbly adapts and thrives


MIT REAP program and virtual events are reimagined to empower key stakeholders to rapidly address COVID-19-driven economic challenges

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., September 2, 2020 — In June 2020, the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) convened its two current cohorts from 13 global regions for its first fully virtual Bridge Event. MIT REAP, a MIT Sloan Global Programs initiative that engages with communities around the world to strengthen innovation-driven entrepreneurial (IDE) ecosystems, has historically gathered teams on the MIT campus for an impactful, two-day drink-from-the-firehose learning, strategy, and networking event. Driven by COVID-19 health concerns and travel restrictions, the Bridge Event was redesigned to provide this critical springboard for success within a virtual environment. To facilitate the adaptation of the program to pandemic-driven challenges, timely new research was shared by MIT REAP faculty leaders Fiona Murray, Scott Stern, Phil Budden, Shari Loessberg, Bill Aulet, and Michael Cusumano, exploring the emerging role of innovation and entrepreneurship in the public health and economic crises, as well as strategies the teams can test as they design their program and policy interventions for innovation and entrepreneurship growth. With success metrics in hand, MIT REAP looks forward to multiplying the positive outcome at their Digital Overlap Workshops in September.

“Although MIT REAP has always employed virtual communication technologies for global collaboration, we’ve traditionally harnessed MIT’s unparalleled convening power to host four annual in-person workshops, per cohort, that facilitate learning, strategic networking, and productive collaborations between regions,” said MIT REAP Director, Travis Hunter. “To replicate this successful in-person convening model in the virtual environment, and to adapt to new challenges, MIT REAP leaned on recent research and insights from its MIT Sloan faculty leadership.”

“Like so many organizations during this unprecedented time, we had to ask ‘how can we execute on our mission under entirely new circumstances, and how can we turn crisis into an opportunity to amplify our impact using new online approaches?’” said Fiona Murray, MIT REAP Faculty Co-Director, William Porter Professor of Entrepreneurship, and MIT Sloan Associate Dean for Innovation and Inclusion. “We were able to engage more participants than ever at our Virtual Bridge event, and with the use of interactive teaching modules, faculty-led breakout sessions and integrated social platforms, we created a solutions space that not only fostered co-learning and networking during our events, but facilitated connected community engagement and clear strategic delivery post event.”

To ensure that the day-to-day MIT REAP programdesigned to help regional teams understand the key strengths and weaknesses of their region’s innovation ecosystem, evaluate the engagement and collective impact by regional stakeholders, and devise unique strategies that strengthen local innovation ecosystemswould not be slowed down or halted by the global pandemic, teams swapped in-person learning for online courses, and quickly pivoted the framework to address pressing health and economic challenges. Because MIT REAP teams are made up of local stakeholders from government, corporate, academia, risk capital, and the entrepreneurial community, these already assembled teams were nimble and quick to construct meaningful interventions.

"As we begin to come through the healthcare and medical crises, it is now the economic recovery that is becoming the focus of regions’ work around the world, and the places that are likely to recover best are the ones that can innovate best,” said Phil Budden, MIT REAP Faculty Co-Director, and Senior Lecturer, Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management at MIT Sloan. “MIT REAP regional teams are now making ‘recovery’ central in the design of their strategies and stakeholder engagements for innovation-driven economic growth, including both traditional innovators and 'entrepreneurs of necessity' who are creating their own opportunities in today’s challenged economy. Both these groups will create not only modest small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but also innovation-driven enterprises in order to accelerate recoveryand MIT REAP can help plant the seeds for this."

At Virtual Bridge Event, MIT REAP Cohorts Report Remarkable Success

Over the two years that regional teams within a cohort spend with MIT REAP, they progress through a cycle of interactive workshops and action-based learning phases, and are instructed and advised by leading MIT Sloan faculty in entrepreneurship and innovation. MIT REAP Cohort 6 teams, who are approaching the completion of the program in Fall 2020, have begun launching interventions in their regional ecosystems and are introducing creative adjustments in response to the pandemic.

  • Team Monterrey, Mexico, spearheaded MTY Universities for Founders, a first-of-its-kind inter-university entrepreneurship event in March, which brought together more than 400 participants for a conference, workshops, and Demo Day. A spinoff of this event, the team launched Demo Day Monterrey for startups and scale-ups and quickly moved the program online in the face of local lockdowns, where it hosts monthly events with more than 200 participants and $39 million in capital raised to date. "Demo Day Monterrey is an excellent resource for entrepreneurs so they can efficiently connect with the entire investor base of our region, therefore facilitating the fundraising process for their startup," said Managing Partner at Dalus Capital and MIT REAP Team Monterrey Co-Champion Rogelio de los Santos. On April 1, an agreement was formalized with Venture Café to open its first location in Latin America, Venture Café Monterrey. Finally, on June 5, the team launched the Monterrey Entrepreneurship Ecosystem wiki, a hub for the city’s innovation ecosystem, its strategic sectors and stakeholders, and community building.
  • Team Leeds City, United Kingdom of Cohort 6 has launched the ide@ online platform for entrepreneurship education and community building and is introducing two program interventions. Leap: Jump into Entrepreneurship is targeted at individuals across the region who are experiencing a change in circumstance due to COVID-19, to inspire them to consider entrepreneurialism as an alternative to traditional employment. The program includes an e-learning course with content donated by over 20 partner organizations, one-on-one mentoring support, and an online community. The community will also be open to business mentors, angel investors, business advisors, and other members of the ecosystem. Build: Where Ideas Take Shape will support a cohort of entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds across the Leeds region to turn their ideas into scalable businesses that investors want to back. The intervention will provide instructional modules delivered by partners, one-on-one coaching by mentoring partners, and a peer-to-peer network. Team Leeds’ ambitions are to inspire and nurture ideas that are innovation-driven, address a significant unmet need, and are “socially useful,” leveraging the region’s innovation cluster expertise in areas including but not limited to health, data, environment, and mobility.

MIT REAP Cohort 7 teams are in the first “action phase” of the program and are assessing their regional ecosystems’ as-is state, strengths, and stakeholder networks.

  • Team New Taipei City, Taiwan has made an early win with its key role in Taiwan Startup Terrace’s Global Hack 2020, a partnership between Taiwan Startup Terrace, Taiwan’s Digital Transformation Association, and MassChallenge Israel to identify, nurture, accelerate, and support international, technology-driven startups both in Taiwan and abroad. The project is funded by Taiwan’s Small and Medium Enterprise Administration of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Global Hack 2020 focuses on four major technology domains: MedTech / HealthTech, AI / 5G / IoT / Cloud Computing, Fintech, and Cybersecurity. Winning teams from Taiwan will have the opportunity to travel abroad for further training and residency in leading incubators, including MassChallenge Israel, located in Jerusalem, and New Lab in Brooklyn, New York. Winning teams from abroad will be offered free co-working space at Startup Terrace in Taiwan, along with access to all of the opportunities that being part of Taiwan’s vibrant startup ecosystem affords.

MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) provides opportunities for communities around the world to engage with MIT to strengthen their innovation-driven entrepreneurial (IDE) ecosystems. We enable the transition of theory to action, guiding participants through the development of programs and policies to grow innovation and entrepreneurship in their regions. REAP admits a cohort of up to eight teams annually to participate in the two-year program. Each team is composed of highly-driven, influential regional members representing five major stakeholder groups: government, corporate, academia, risk capital, and the entrepreneurial community. Applications for the 2021 cohort are now open. More at


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MIT Sloan School of Management Global Programs (MIT GP) seeks to establish, maintain, and grow high-level collaborations with public and private institutions across the globe to advance research and develop innovative leaders who improve the world through management education.

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For more info Travis Hunter Director, MIT REAP, Regional Entreprenuership Acceleration Program (603) 244-9921 Shannon Farrelly