University Ecosystems: Leadership Ideas
Entrepreneurs can no longer assemble the "next big thing" in their garage from a computer kit like Jobs and Wozniak. You can't do gene therapy in your garage...or optical circuits, hydrogen fuel cells, metamaterials, nanoscale devices...to name a few. These innovations require expensive tools, labs, resources and infrastructure support to develop complex science-based innovations. It is safe to say that the next wave of game-changing innovations will cost orders of magnitude more than the last wave of consumer electronics and social networking websites. In many cases, the only place to access these expensive tools is in a science lab on a university campus. This places an enormous burden on universities. In the coming decade, many institutions will need to integrate downstream into areas where universities have been more or less reluctant to develop. I'm talking about commercialization of emerging technologies and venture formation.
Universities currently provide entrepreneurial programs that help students start businesses; tech transfer offices that make researchers aware of university IP policies, and incubators that turn universities into landlords. Unfortunately, these activities are not the "innovation engines" they were once thought they could be. One reason is the natural reluctance of non-profit institutions to engage in "for profit" activities. However, in an era when economic pressures are crippling economies in many nations including the U.S., I believe it is incumbent on universities to integrate more directly (and "holistically") into community development, job creation, venture formation and commercialization of science and technology.
I also believe that university degrees need to be updated to reflect the realities of modern business. Business students need to be able to speak the language of globalization, which is a somewhat unique business dialect that includes all cultures and geographic locations. Many of the traditional notions of business management have already morphed into new forms. For example, I recently authored a book chapter on marketing bionanotechnology, which included a discussion of how the "5 P's" of the Marketing Mix (product, price, promotion, place and people) have evolved into a new marketing mix called "SIVA" where product is solution, price becomes value, promotion is information, place is access, and people is community.1, 2 This is only one small bit of evidence that shows how the landscape is changing in the global business environment.
For universities, a major trend is a move toward a holistic view of what a university should be. I agree with those who believe that universities should be more involved in the entire landscape of innovation, not just education and research. This is important. Universities are one of the few strong institutions capable of giving an adrenalin shot to our innovation engine. As we peer over the horizon, it's easy to see that it's going to be exceedingly difficult to fund healthcare, keep our commitments for benefits such as social security, replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources, develop smart grids, and take the bitter pills needed to control global climate change. To solve many of these problems, we're going to have to innovate our way out of the canyon. We may need to invent new types of economic or market balloons to float us out (yes, I know that's a bad metaphor), as well as better ways to translate research into practice and commercialize emerging technologies. I sit on the Commercialization Core Committee developing translational medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and I'm a strong supporter of translational research, across technologies.
D.B.A. vs. Ph.D.
The European Union has been cultivating the concept of a Doctorate in Business Administration - the "D.B.A." - for senior managers. This degree, sometimes called a "professional doctorate", is focused on providing senior business leaders with high level research and analytical skills, in contrast to the Ph.D. degree in management which is more focused on theoretical frameworks and related studies. Most business Ph.D.s pursue careers at business schools, while D.B.A.s are encouraged to return to business practice. The D.B.A. was developed at Harvard (Clay Christensen has a D.B.A.) - and is treated as a Ph.D. In Europe, the degree has a slightly different cache.
While I was at Leeds, Krsto Pandza (left) and Terry Wilkins described how d.b.a.'s are being developed at several European business schools. I found this concept to be very intriguing, which led me to draft a concept for a "branded" d.b.a. degree that could be linked to specific "innovation challenges" in need of improvement in the European Union. These D.B.A.s could be focused on one of five EU challenges, and would tie the D.B.A. course of study directly to these EU objectives. While I'm sure that some academics would view the "branding" of a doctoral degree as a form of heresy, I believe that linking doctoral level research to specific business goals is an idea worth exploring.
1Dev, Chekitan S.; Don E. Schultz (January/February 2005). "In the Mix: A Customer-Focused Approach Can Bring the Current Marketing Mix into the 21st Century". Marketing Management 14 (1).
2Tomczyk, Michael (2011). "Applying the Marketing Mix (5 P's) to Bionanotechnology". Biomedical Nanotechnology. Sarah Hurst, Ed. Springer.