If you are thinking about taking the new MITx MOOC 3.086x Innovation and Commercialization, check out this interview from 2011 with course instructor Eugene Fitzgerald, done at the time of the release of his book Inside Real Innovation (2010 – World Scientific):
Eugene A. Fitzgerald
Eugene A. Fitzgerald was born in Springfield, MA, USA. He received a BS degree in Materials Science and Engineering in 1985 from MIT and his PhD in the same discipline from Cornell University in 1989. Building upon his early experience at AT&T Bell Labs, he has created and led a series of fundamental innovations, from early technology to final implementation in the market.
A serial entrepreneur, he is a founder of founding team member of 5 start-up ventures. Dr. Fitzgerald is a recipient of the 2011 IEEE Andrew S. Grove Award, and is currently the Merton C. Flemings SMA Professor of Materials Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His most recent book, Inside Real Innovation: How the Right Approach Can Move Ideas from R&D to Market – And Get the Economy Moving, was co-authored with Andreas Wankerl, and Carl Schramm and published by World Scientific Publishing Company (November, 2010).
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Morris: Before discussing Inside Real Innovation, a few general questions. First, other than a family member, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth?
Fitzgerald: Hard to leave family out; but if I do, I would say my colleagues at AT&T Bell Laboratories and my continued relationships with my students over their time at the university and also their progress in their careers (some of whom have been partners or participants in our start-up companies). My colleagues abroad have been influential in continue to expand my view of the world.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development?
Fitzgerald: This is a bit easier than the former, since my development is clearly marked with collaborations and partnerships at various points which have allowed me to continue to develop professionally, and all of whom are close friends even if distance or career has separated us since our collaboration.
Many of these people are mentioned in the book. In graduate school, my PhD advisor Prof. Dieter Ast and IBM Fellow Dr. Jerry Woodall had great influence on my introduction to research and the research world. At AT&T Bell Laboratories, it was clearly my collaboration with Dr. Ya-Hong Xie, who is now a Prof. at UCLA.
Upon entering back into Academe, Prof. Dimitri Antoniadis was a close collaborator and guidepost at MIT but very importantly, with the silicon CMOS industry as well. Working with my former graduate student, Dr. Mayank Bulsara, in founding my first company was another step further out into a different portion of the world- building a company and hiring and managing together many different kinds of people.
And my friend and collaborator Prof. Steve Ringel from Ohio State University has been there for 20 years as we have both grown professionally, and we founded a current start-up together in 2005. Since 2005, Prof. Soon Yoon at NTU in Singapore has been a collaborator and confidant and helped me begin to understand more about Asia.
Regarding my growth in innovation work, Dr. Andreas Wankerl has been absolutely crucial to our collaborative thinking (which started more than 8 years ago), and Lesa Mitchell and Carl Schramm were also crucial partners at the Kauffman Foundation. Each of these people has played a significant role in my professional development. Read more.