15 Nov 2016

HBS and SEAS Explore Opportunities for Innovative Thinking

Re: Forest Reinhardt; Lauren Cohen; Karim Lakhani; Nitin Nohria


Professor Lauren H. Cohen
(photo by Eliza Grinnell)

Professor Karim R. Lakhani
(photo by Richard Howard)

Collaboration between faculty members at Harvard Business School and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) was the subject of the schools’ first joint research symposium in May 2016. Held at HBS, it sparked excitement about what could be achieved when business and science work toward a common goal.

The symposium showcased groundbreaking research, highlighted existing partnerships, and explored ways to foster innovation even before two-thirds of SEAS moves to its new campus adjacent to HBS and the Harvard Innovation Labs in 2020. More than 100 HBS and SEAS faculty, doctoral students, and staff attended the event.

“The proximity sets the stage for us to combine our strengths and unleash discovery in ways that truly benefit society and the world,” said HBS Dean Nitin Nohria. “It will be transformational, not just for each of our schools, but for the entire University, and is a great example of what ‘One Harvard’ can bring.”

Featured research presentations illustrated how business, science, and technology are addressing societal challenges: SEAS professor Yiling Chen discussed the design of social computing systems, HBS professor Karim R. Lakhani explained the use of crowdsourcing for genomic data processing, SEAS professor Conor J. Walsh spoke about creating wearable robotic equipment to help people with physical disabilities, and HBS professor Lauren H. Cohen outlined research focusing on “patent trolls” that sue cash-rich companies for patent violations.

Ongoing collaborations between HBS and SEAS were highlighted in a panel discussion, including the work conducted by Daniel P. Schrag, a SEAS professor who directs Harvard’s Center for the Environment, and Forest Reinhardt, HBS’s John D. Black Professor of Business Administration who also cochairs the School’s Global Energy Seminar. Daniel J. Needleman, SEAS’s Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, and Vicki Sato, Professor of Management Practice at HBS, discussed their partnership furthering the commercialization of science.

Befitting the symposium’s setting in Aldrich Hall, the daylong event included a case discussion that explored how innovation advanced by the two schools would take shape in the next decade with Allston’s emergence as an enterprise zone. “There’s an energy here we want to keep fueling,” said SEAS Dean Frank Doyle, speaking about possibilities for collaboration in the areas of computer vision, data security, smart cities, and health care delivery. Dean Nohria concurred: “I hope you share my great excitement about what we can accomplish together.”


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