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Editorial | Lab for entrepreneurship should be university priority

Published: Monday, November 26, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 26, 2012 07:11


Rather than having students hunt for jobs after graduating from college, why not have them fund their own companies, which they could launch right from campus, before they even get a diploma? That’s what other Boston-area schools are turning their attention toward, and it’s time Tufts catches up.

The Harvard innovation lab, or “I-Lab,” and MIT’s Langer Lab approach science, information technology work and engineering in an effective way — by commercializing them. According to the I-Lab website, students who use the lab have the opportunity to launch their own startup companies, find partners and mentors, consult specialists in their fields and show their ideas to the public. Having resources like expert advice, a stylish workspace and office, advanced technology and access to investors could very easily give a new company the push it needs to succeed. 

Open to all Harvard undergraduate and graduate students, the I-Lab also provides students with the opportunity to take classes in commercializing their scientific advances in medicine, biotechnology and computer science, according to the lab’s website. But the key to the I-Lab’s success could be its acceptance of the newly growing fields of social entrepreneurship and art entrepreneurship. By opening these facilities to the entire student population, Harvard has, according to The Boston Globe, launched 65 businesses within the I-Lab’s first year, which span areas as diverse as iPhone applications, criminal justice management and vaccine distribution.

MIT’s Langer Lab, while specializing only on scientific innovations, has produced 25 companies since its start in the 1980s, according to The Boston Globe — companies that are producing bite-sized chemotherapy wafers, disease indicating microchips and various sugar-based blood thinners. 

With talks of Tufts’ strategic plan, which envisions the university 10 years down the line, it’s crucial that Tufts invests in the future of its students by enhancing its entrepreneurial facilities. Although the engineering school does have an Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, a university-wide push that stresses the importance of creating new products, ideas and innovations, regardless of what field of study they come from, would benefit not only students and beneficiaries of those brainstorms, but would also improve Tufts’ reputation and help the university maintain a competitive edge.

Creating a space like the I-Lab should be a high priority in the strategic planning process. Having Tufts-based companies “made in Medford” would provide jobs for students of diverse interests, rather than strictly innovators or engineers. As inventions and new products drive the country’s economy upward, it makes sense to train students to be able to operate in this new workspace.

Tufts is a research university, and as such, should provide a quick and direct path for the funding and production of these potentially profitable and impactful ideas.

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