MIT launches Deshpande Center; Issues first grants totaling $1.25 million

New Center Bridges Gap Between Academic Research and Commercialization; Takes Initial Steps Toward Promoting Technology Innovation and Stimulating Entrepreneurial Leadership In New England and Beyond

Cambridge, Mass. (October 15, 2002) -- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) today announced the launch of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation (Deshpande Center) and the issuance of more than one million dollars in Ignition and Innovation Grants. The Deshpande Center is part of the MIT School of Engineering and was established in January of this year through a $20M gift from Jaishree Deshpande and Desh Deshpande, the co-founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks. The Deshpande Center was created to serve as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting research of MIT faculty and students and facilitating collaboration among entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, innovative businesses and MIT faculty. The Deshpande Center supports a wide range of emerging technologies including biotechnology, information technology, new materials, tiny tech, energy, and environmental innovation.

As a consequence of obstacles in the innovation process - between initial idea and commercialization - research has often been left undeveloped in the laboratory. The Deshpande Center supports research in emerging technologies and helps reduce the risk around investing in new technologies. The center helps researchers bring their ideas to fruition by supporting market-driven innovation, assisting with the intellectual property process, and enabling collaboration throughout the R&D path.

"It gives me great pleasure to announce the formal launch of the Deshpande Center and the first grant recipients," said Alex D'Arbeloff, Chairman of MIT Corporation and founder of Teradyne. "By launching the Center and issuing the first grants, the Deshpande Center has taken the first step in filling a major gap in the innovation process. Prior to the launch of the Center, unproven ideas often had difficulty to advance beyond their theoretical stages, and younger companies lacked ways to hear about new ideas and get involved in bringing them to market."

Prof. Charles L. Cooney, Faculty Director, added, "Reducing the disconnect between academia and the marketplace is an exciting opportunity that promises to accelerate the rate that technological innovation reaches communities well beyond the boundaries of MIT."

Dedicated to supporting leading-edge research spanning proof of concept explorations to market-driven innovations, the Deshpande Center plans to award at least $15 million in Ignition and Innovation Grants over the next five years.

Announced today, the Deshpande Center awarded nine grants selected from a total of 47 proposals. The five Ignition grants and four Innovation Grants awarded total $1.25 million.

Ignition grants provide seed funding of up to $50,000 and are awarded to benefit those projects in the early, more conceptual stages. Targeting risky, unprecedented technological advancements that, if proven successful, would have broad implications, Ignition grants are awarded to help catapult ideas into research. Innovation grants provide funding up to $250,000 and are awarded to benefit those projects that have moved beyond the conceptual stage to the later stages of development. Innovation grants support research on new technologies that have the potential to yield new businesses or products. The Deshpande Center’s steering committee and an extended panel of reviewers at MIT judge submissions. Award recipients are selected based on the novelty, enabling impact, and utility of the proposed research programs.

Commenting on the center and the grants, Krisztina Holly, Executive Director of the Deshpande Center said, "the competition for the first round of grants and the initial feedback from the MIT and business communities demonstrate that there is a great market need for a program that helps answer the 'what if...?' around technologists' ideas. As an entrepreneur, I feel privileged to be able to help new technologies make a positive impact on the world and the local economy, and to be part of an organization that is breaking traditional barriers in the academic, technology and business settings."

In addition to receiving research funding, grant recipients are introduced to a host of entrepreneurial and business resources inside and outside of MIT, including venture capitalists, local business resources, MIT Technology Licensing Office, MIT Venture Mentoring Service, partnerships with MIT Sloan School of Management Courses, MIT Entrepreneurship Center, MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition, MIT Industrial Liaison Program, MIT Sloan School of Management, and MIT Enterprise Forum®.

"MIT has always been a fertile ground for technology development," said Jamie Goldstein, General Partner, North Bridge Venture Partners. "By infusing MIT technology with sound business expertise and opening the doors to the business and VC communities, the Deshpande Center is not only breaking new ground but it is also setting the stage for the next wave of great companies in our region."

A leadership team comprised of entrepreneurs and technologists directs the Deshpande Center. The Deshpande Center's executive team includes Krisztina Holly, Executive Director, and Prof. Charles L. Cooney, Faculty Director. Ms. Holly, an engineer and entrepreneur, received her B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. Prior to joining the Deshpande Center, Ms. Holly co-founded Stylus Innovation. She also worked with River Run Media and Direct Hit, an Internet search engine that was sold to Ask Jeeves for $500 Million. Prof. Cooney is a Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at MIT. Prof. Cooney has also worked with a number of biotechnology companies in their early stages and is a director at Genzyme, Cuno, and BioCon India. The steering committee includes Desh Deshpande, Co-founder and Chairman, Sycamore Networks; Alex D'Arbeloff, Chairman of the MIT Corporation, founder of Teradyne, and Chairman of Empirix; and Thomas Magnanti, Dean, MIT School of Engineering.

The executive and steering committees have collective experience in implementing and transferring technological innovation into new and existing technologies. With a wealth of experience and expertise to their credit - having launched dozens of companies and technological innovations - the Center's leadership helps new technologies emerge in the marketplace.

The Deshpande Center also announced today the request for proposals for the forthcoming grant cycle. The deadline for submissions is November 4, 2002.