CMU Launches Integrated Innovation Institute

CMU integrated innovation institute

Carnegie Mellon University has formally launched an Integrated Innovation Institute, a market-focused center that will cross-train students in the values, principles, thinking and methods of engineering, design and business — the three disciplines considered to be the core of innovation.

Drawing on Carnegie Mellon’s top-ranked College of Engineering, School of Design and Tepper School of Business, the institute’s origins lie in the groundbreaking principles of Carnegie Mellon Professor and Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon, a founding father of artificial intelligence who also established the basis for a science of design. Simon helped lay the foundation for cognitive science, crossed disciplinary boundaries of half a dozen fields, and set a precedent for collaborative research.

“Global business challenges demand a new breed of executive talent. Our integrated innovation tenets force students outside their previous training and comfort zones, creating hybrid thinkers and doers,” says institute co-director Peter Boatwright, the Carnegie Bosch Professor of Marketing at the Tepper School of Business, in a statement.

“We’ve been moving toward this pivotal point for years, training students in a deeply integrated and pragmatic method that directly addresses the barriers inhibiting speed in industry.”

The Integrated Innovation Institute comes amid much global debate on the need to “fix” innovation. A recent study by Accenture found two dominant obstacles: a conservative approach focusing on line-extension renovation rather than a broad portfolio of bold ideas; and a lack of systematic, enterprise-wide processes capable of timely commercialization of inventions into products or services at scale.

“Innovation can be studied, formalized, taught — and continuously improved upon with new knowledge,” says institute co-director Jonathan Cagan, the Ladd Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering. “We’ve elevated collaboration to a new plane, and what we’re doing could only come out of Carnegie Mellon’s rich history of interdisciplinary work.     

At the institute’s core are three professional master’s degrees: the Master of Integrated Innovation for Products and Services (Pittsburgh, founded in 2003); the Master of Science in Software Management (Silicon Valley, founded in 2004), the only program to focus on innovation related to the continuum of the software field; and a professional master’s degree planned for fall 2015 as part of Carnegie Mellon’s new Integrated Media Program at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Augmenting these degrees is a pilot innovation laboratory where graduate student teams tackle corporate-sponsored cases with real-world rigor and accountability, and where institute-funded projects explore vexing societal problems. The institute also conducts proprietary applied research, and extends its training through executive education, customized company programs and open-enrollment consortia.

“Increasingly, organizations recognize the impact that engineers, designers and marketers who understand one another’s thinking can have working together at the ‘fuzzy front end’ of a project,” says institute co-director Eric Anderson, an associate professor in the School of Design and associate dean of the College of Fine Arts.

“Sponsors report that our graduates are a market-level above, with the agility to step into any range of scenarios, in any industry and immediately apply their knowledge.”

With the launch of the Integrated Innovation Institute, Anderson, Boatwright and Cagan believe that Carnegie Mellon’s tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration will carry forward through generations of “elite integrated innovators” who will transform the world.

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