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Monday, May 12, 2008

Harvard’s Inventing Breakthroughs and Commercializing Science

At the Georgia Tech conference earlier this month, Lee Fleming of Harvard Business School described the program he created for technology commercialization.

The program he created is “Inventing Breakthroughs and Commercializing Science”. As the course explains its goals:
  1. it gives you the managerial insights to increase the chances that your organization will invent a breakthrough.
  2. it gives you an understanding of today's increasingly complex innovative landscape. …
  3. the project will give you hands-on experience - as a member of a multi-disciplinary team - in the development of science-based technologies such as genomics, nanotechnology, information technology, and photonics.
As with the other programs discussed at the conference, the Harvard program has a strong interdisciplinary focus. In this case, the interdisciplinary nature is that of its students, who come not just from HBS, but also from science, engineering, medicine and other schools at Harvard. (Lee said a major issue is the divergence of class schedules, which Harvard plans to correct in Fall 2009).

The program (created with Vicki Sato and Kent Bown) has four modules: breakthrough innovation, opportunity analysis, analyzing prior patents, and developing cross-disciplinary teams.

As with most research schools, Lee is encouraged to bring his research into the classroom. The readings and cases (listed below) are largely based on his own work. In this day of Google, I won’t share his insight into the pedagogical purposes of each, but let instructors get that from the teaching notes.

I first learned of Lee from his paper with David Waguespack on open standards (which I cited in my own (co-authored) paper on open source communities). We met F2F when we served as discussants together for a panel at the 2007 Academy meeting, but I’m hoping we’ll be working together more in the future.

Lee also has a personal stake, in that his wife is CEO of a startup (with early stage funding) that is based on university licensed technology. So he’s living the technology commercialization life first hand.

Below is a bibliography of the materials presented by Lee.

  • Lee Fleming, “Breakthroughs and the “Long Tail” of Innovation,” Sloan Management Reviews, 49, 1 (Fall 2007), pp 69-74.
  • Lee Fleming and Matt Marx, “Managing Creativity in Small Worlds,” California Management Review, 48, 4 (Summer 2006), pp. 6-25
Here are the cases and the Harvard Business School Publishing case numbers.
  • “Aptekar’s Unlikely Spin; Commercializing an MRI Breakthrough from Atomic Clocks and Quantum Computing,” (N1-608-064). (Teaching Note: 5-608-078)
  • “Epodia: Demise of the HBS case-writing Monopoly?” (9-605-077) and “Linux, Supplement to Epodia,” (9-606-067). (Teaching Note: 5-607-104)
  • “HP Nanotech: Partnership with CNSI,” (9-606-045). (Teaching Note: N5-607-105)
  • “Infovision (A): Technology Transfer at Georgia Tech,” (9-605-064) and “Infovision (B): TI:GER Program Assessment,” (9-605-065). (Teaching Note: N5-607-102)
  • “Photovoltaic Breakthrough,” (9-604-034). (Teaching Note: 5-606-085)
  • “Barry Ricemen at NetD” (A) (9-606-090) and (B) (9-606-151). (Teaching Note: 5-607-107)
  • “SpudSpy,” (9-605-059). (Teaching Note: 5-607-103)
Teaching Notes without Cases
  • Module Note: “Key Concepts in a Module on Managing Invention of Breakthroughs,” March 19, 2007, (5-607-109).
  • Teaching Note: “The Process of Scientific Discovery”, (5-607-126).

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