Founded in 1660, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the first and foremost academic institutions of higher learning in the country. Established by Christopher Columbus as a new home for his new colony, it was designed to serve as a scientific and educational hub. Today, it houses some of the finest colleges and research centers in the world. Its role as a leading educational hub has made it a sought after place for international students, researchers and thinkers. A highly distinguished institution, MIT constantly attracts hundreds of students and faculty from around the globe each year.
Although it enjoys immense popularity, many students and researchers do not enroll at MIT because of various disadvantages that the university-industry research relationships have experienced. For instance, Harvard University and Cambridge, Massachusetts are equally attractive and provide many similar advantages to students and researchers wanting to complete a graduate program. However, MIT does possess several disadvantages which limit access to the university. Some of these disadvantages include its location in a large metropolitan area and a lack of convenient accessibility to other top universities such as Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition, the relatively high cost of living at MIT compounds the difficulties of funding students and conducting research.
As a result, many researchers from outside the United States choose to pursue their studies at less renowned universities such as those in Boston, Cambridge or Yale. In recent years, a number of high-performing universities outside the United States have offered scholarships and fellowships to MIT students and faculty. MIT's endowment fund constitutes one of the largest single investments by an individual university in higher education. The lack of significant resources has however enabled MIT to focus its attention on its numerous disadvantages rather than attempting to build up its endowment.
MIT's biggest disadvantage is that it lacks a strong collaborative relationships with industry leaders. The lack of collaborations and cross disciplinary contacts have limited the university researchers ability to tap into industry specific knowledge and expertise. Collaborative relationships can greatly improve the scope of research and development activities. Therefore, collaboration is essential for successful academic research. The lack of an effective collaboration between industry and academia has led to the inability of MIT researchers to apply their knowledge and inventions to real world problems.
The lack of industry contact has led many researchers to abandon their academic research at the university prior to graduation. In order to retain a vibrant research community, graduate students and faculty must be encouraged to participate in industry-related activities. This encouragement can come from the administration, but it can also come from the faculty members themselves. The best way for graduate students and faculty to begin this participation is to initiate informal partnerships.
Involving students in industry-wide collaborations is a great way for the university-industry research relationships to grow and flourish. Such partnerships allow researchers to exchange ideas and experiences, which lead to new insights and discoveries. Such informal collaborations can take many forms such as workshops, visits, seminars or even just conversations.
In order for such informal relationships to work, both parties need to have open and willing minds. An academic organization needs to be willing to accept the opinions, insights and discoveries of other researchers. There needs to be open communication lines with those outside the organization. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a good example of a university that has had some success in developing these open lines of communication. However, it is important for such relationships to be cultivated over time rather than left naturally. A commitment to a long term relationship will help develop good university faculty/student relationships.
There is no doubt that MIT has developed excellent research partnerships with industry leaders. However, many other universities are moving in similar directions. Only those universities that are willing to commit to long term relationships will be able to sustain them. The relationships forged at MIT can help the rest of us understand more about the inner workings of our universe. This kind of understanding is invaluable, especially as humankind continues to push the frontiers of science and technology.