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Orienting engineering education towards innovation, entrepreneurism and industry partnerships: The case of the MIT Portugal Program

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Int. Engineering Education: Developments, Innovations, and Implementations

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Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1129.1 - 22.1129.19



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Paper Authors


Sebastian M. Pfotenhauer Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Sebastian Pfotenhauer is a post-doctoral researcher with the MIT-Portugal Program and the MIT Technology & Policy Program. His research focus is on the interrelation of national higher education and innovation systems, the role international university collaborations as an innovation strategy for catching-up countries, and the integration of science, education, and innovation policies. Sebastian holds an M.Sc. in Technology & Policy and a Ph.D. in Physics. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the violin, learning new languages, and traveling.

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Joshua Jacobs Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Josh Jacobs has worked since 2001 in strategic, program, communications and operational roles in internationally engaged higher education programs, since 2003 at MIT. From 2007 - 2009 he was the resident MIT liaison in Lisbon, Portugal, as part of the MIT-Portugal Program collaboration, and also served as Director of Education and communications coordinator. He is currently Director of Operations and Partner Integration for the Leaders for Global Operations MBA/S.M dual-degree program at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the MIT School of Engineering.

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Julio A. Pertuze Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Julio A. Pertuze is a Ph.D. student at MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD).

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Daniel T. Roos P.E. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Dava J. Newman Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Preferred session categories for paper:International Collaborations, Experiences, Partnerships, Service LearningInternational Exchange/Joint Programs in engineering educationTeaching entrepreneurship to engineering students in developing countries(for the last one, I would prefer a more inclusive title like “in developing and catching-upcountries,” since Portugal is technically not a developing country) Orienting engineering education towards innovation, entrepreneurism and industry partnerships: The case of the MIT-Portugal CollaborationEngineering education has always served as a close nexus between academia and industry, andas a strong determinant of a country’s innovative and economic performance. As manydeveloped regions and countries are struggling with the loss of low-cost manufacturing to globalcompetitors, governments naturally turn to their institutions of engineering education to move upthe value chain and towards an innovation and knowledge based economy.This paper discusses how engineering education in Portugal has been radically transformed overthe past four years with the help of a strong international collaboration. As part of a largerprocess of educational reform, the MIT-Portugal Program (MPP) has gathered the country’sleading institutions in an unprecedented education and research consortium centered around theengineering systems paradigm. MPP has employed a wide range of policy tools to orientengineering education towards innovation, entrepreneurship, and industry cooperation,including: the creation of 7 new education tracks in compliance with the Bologna 3rd cycle requirements (4 research-heavy PhD degrees and 3 professional Advanced Study masters degrees) that feature innovative curriculum design with a focus on innovation management and leadership courses, a modularized term structure, lab rotation periods, and long-distance video lecturing the recruitment of a highly specific student body with strong industry propensity and experience a focus on internationalization, raising the percentage of international students to almost 40%, more than four times higher than comparable Portuguese graduate programs extensive networking between groups and institutions and a high degree of student and researcher mobility, allowing students to benefit from the country’s best educators and research labs, intensifying communication and collaboration, enlarging individual scientific networks, and creating critical mass in research power. access to an associated network of 50+ industry affiliates, involving industry extensively in student theses and lecturing.Being now in its final year of the first 5-year phase, the program has yielded important andvisible educational successes, as documented by a number of comparative surveys carriedbetween MPP and its Portuguese peer programs to be discussed in this paper. MPP is thus wellon its way of becoming the first truly international Portuguese program both in terms ofcompetitiveness and attractiveness, and could serve as a model strategy addressing keychallenges at the intersection of engineering education, research, and innovation. Finally, as alargely innovative and experimental program, the MPP trajectory holds important lessonsregarding program administration and national reform capacity that could potentially be of valuefor other countries that are trying to prepare their traditional engineering education with a greaterdegree of industry orientation, an innovation-prone ecosystem, and a culture of entrepreneurism.

Pfotenhauer, S. M., & Jacobs, J., & Pertuze, J. A., & Roos, D. T., & Newman, D. J. (2011, June), Orienting engineering education towards innovation, entrepreneurism and industry partnerships: The case of the MIT Portugal Program Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18757

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