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Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Policy for Science, Technology and Innovation

This course will examine the science and technology innovation system, including case studies on energy, computing, advanced manufacturing and health sectors, with an emphasis on public policy and the federal government’s R&D role in that system

Policy for Science, Technology and Innovation
8 weeks
3–5 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

About this course

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Innovation and accompanying science and technology are now seen not only to have a profound connection to our health and daily life, but also to the society’s economic growth and its corresponding ability to generate societal wellbeing and solve societal challenges -- and these economic and societal issues are deeply interrelated. This course focuses on science and technology policy – it will examine the science and technology innovation system, including case studies on energy, computing, advanced manufacturing and health sectors, with an emphasis on public policy and the federal government’s R&D role in that system. It will review the foundations of economic growth theory, innovation systems theory and innovation organization theory, as well as the basic approaches to science and technology policy, building toward a sophisticated understanding of these areas. The class will review a theory of direct and indirect economic factors in the innovation system, note the innovation-based competitive and advanced manufacturing challenges now facing the U.S. economy, review comparative efforts in other nations, study the varied models for how federal science and technology mission agencies are organized, and the growth of public-private partnership models as a way for science mission agencies to pursue mission agendas. Emphasis will also be placed on examining the organization and role of medical science and energy innovation agencies and gaps in the health, energy, and advanced production innovation economic models, as well as related innovation systems policy issues. The course will close with an examination of the science and technology talent base as a factor in growth and the education approaches that support it, and a discussion of the future of jobs and employment given increasing automation.

At a glance

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Organizational Theories, Medical Science, Advanced Manufacturing, Innovation, Economic Modeling, Economic Growth, Public Policies, Systems Theories, Economics

What you'll learn

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Students will emerge from the course with a strong grasp of the fundamentals of innovation systems and the economic and technology development factors behind them, and with a clear framework to approach science and technology policymaking. They will understand the basics of innovation-based economic growth theory, and also take an in-depth look at the innovation systems in health and energy.

More specifically, students will develop an understanding of the following innovation policy areas:

  • The drivers behind science and technology support, including economic growth theory, direct and indirect innovation factors, Kondratiev innovation waves, innovation systems theory, the “valley of death” between research and late stage development, and public-private partnership models;
  • The organizing framework behind US science agencies, their missions and research organizational models, as well as the DARPA model as an alternative;
  • The competitiveness challenge in advanced production technologies, including global innovation models;
  • The organization of innovation at both the institutional and personal, face-to- face levels;
  • Challenges in the energy, computing and health innovation systems and also within legacy economic sectors in general;
  • Key issues in the science and engineering talent base and education system and pending employment and productivity issues.

Class 1 – The economic drivers behind the support of science and technology

Class 2 – The organizing framework behind federal R&D and technology agencies

Class 3 – Great Group theory – the organization of innovation at the face-to-face level

Class 4 – Barriers and opportunities in life science advance

Class 5 – The structure for obtaining an energy technology transformation

Class 6 – The competitiveness challenge in advanced manufacturing

Class 7 – A new roadmap for science and technology talent development and workforce education

Learner testimonials

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Why take this course? Here’s a story about one student who took it _(excerpts fromMIT News article, 11/18/20): _

“Academia,” “government,” “industry” — Bhavik Nagda squinted closely as his professor pointed to each word on the diagram of the American economy’s core components. Between each word sprouted dozens of arrows, illustrating the complex interactions between the three institutions.“There were just so many arrows,” says Nagda, recalling the presentation during MIT’s Science [and Technology] Policy Bootcamp. “I was blown away. It gave a voice to the way I think about systemic issues and how America has built its economy.”

The pieces finally connected when he attended the bootcamp, taught by Bill Bonvillian, of MIT.... Nagda had already observed the importance of cooperation between innovators and policymakers during several internships, in roles as an engineer and a technology investor. The bootcamp crystallized his understanding of how critical this cooperation is to the U.S. economy — and he began to envision a future for himself working at the intersection of technology, innovation, and policy.

*Regarding the in-person version of this class at MIT *

“Among the most popular …This [in-person MIT version of this course] is consistently oversubscribed; capped at 40 students, over 230, nearly twice the capacity, have applied over the past three years. – MIT Science Policy Initiative student organization

“I would like to sincerely thank you for sparking my curiosity for the innovation process and inspiring me to think about and view many technological advancements in our world through the innovation systems lens. I especially enjoyed learning the stories of tuxedo Park, the Great Groups Class and the NIH/Biotech class, and I hope to carry these lessons forward as I innovate in different groups at MIT and beyond” – Comment from an MIT student

“Wanted to thank you for a great semester and for the very detailed feedback [on my paper]; I have learnt a lot from you and our class discussions, and I am sure it will be useful as I start my career.” – Comment from an MIT student

Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Do I need a background in economics?

A: No, while the economics of innovation will be discussed, a background in economics is not needed.

Q: Do I need to be a scientist or engineer to take this course?

A: No, while these fields will be discussed, a scientific or engineering background is not necessary, only an interest in innovation and technology.

Q: Who would be interested in this course?

A: Those with a general interest in public policy particularly for innovation and technology development; those who want to understand how innovation comes about; those studying science and engineering who want to see how their work fits into the innovation process; those in government who want a background in science, technology, economic growth and innovation policy; those in industry who want to understand overall innovation theory and systems; those with an interest in particular technology fields such as energy, health science, computing, manufacturing and overall R&D.

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners residing in one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.

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