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Engineering Entrepreneurship At Penn

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Teaching Entrepreneurship to Engineers

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.499.1 - 8.499.14



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Paper Authors

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Thomas Cassel

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3554

Engineering Entrepreneurship at Penn Thomas A.V. Cassel School of Engineering and Applied Science University of Pennsylvania


Penn’s two Engineering Entrepreneurship courses receive the highest student ratings of all courses offered in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. This paper discusses the importance of engineering entrepreneurship, both from a global economic perspective and from the personal perspective of the engineer. The paper then discusses Penn’s approach to their Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, with particular focus on its differentiation from entrepreneurship courses offered in the business school. The premise of Penn’s Program is that engineers create and lead great technology companies, hiring managers where needed to execute their vision.

Engineering Entrepreneurship and Global Competitiveness

Engineers and scientists create great companies. Why? Because they possess the knowledge and skills of high-tech innovation, the passion to pursue it, and the discipline to succeed. Many of these companies are well known: H-P, founded by two electrical engineers, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard; Intel, created in 1968 by two physicists, Robert Noyce1 and Gordon Moore2; and IBM, created originally as the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896 by Herman Hollerith, a mechanical engineer3. Companies like these, and legions of other current and former high-tech entrepreneurial ventures, are the drivers of America’s economic growth.

America is the world’s leading producer of high-tech products, responsible for about one-third of the world’s production. Moreover, our competitiveness in global markets depends on the diffusion of high-tech innovation into other sectors of the economy. New products, services and processes increase productivity, increase market share, and create entirely new markets4. Entrepreneurial companies, and the engineers and scientists who create them, are the sine qua non of this global technological preeminence. Studies find that more than two-thirds of all technological innovation in America, and 95% of all radical technological innovation in America, are attributable to entrepreneurs.5,6 In the words of the Assistant Secretary for Technology Policy of the U.S. Department of Commerce, “If innovation and entrepreneurship profoundly shaped the 20th century, they will define the 21st.”7

Recent research shows that startup companies play an appreciably greater role in the commercialization of new technologies than do established corporations. Innovations based on academic research are more likely to emerge from small, rather than large, firms. Furthermore, the nimbleness of small firms allows them to bring new products to the market quicker. Small entrepreneurial companies are recognized as being highly efficient vehicles for the speedy commercialization of high-tech innovation.8

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Cassel, T. (2003, June), Engineering Entrepreneurship At Penn Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12126

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015