Monday, August 29, 2011

The Work of Universities

Last week I spent a couple of days at a university in Mexico called Universidad del Mayab.  I am a member of their international advisory board.  But I would be a fan, even if I were not.

The Mayab is a selective independent university whose vision is to be engaged in the world around them.  They have worked hard at developing a series of collaborations with universities around the world.  They have sponsored conferences.  They have consulted with governments in the area of the Yucatan to improve the quality of administration.  In short they are engaged.

Last week we got to see something new, it is an incubator designed to accomplish two things at once.  First, the University has offered several startups space in which to work on their products.  At the same time they hope to encourage the development of a cluster in the region that would focus on some of the strengths of the university's graduates.   The picture above is of three prototypes of a medical information device which allows patients to take readings (on things like blood sugar and blood pressure) and then print them out and also to send the data to their physician.   The prototypes go from left to right - each one being simpler and smaller.   The center has a number of other projects in other areas where young entrepreneurs are given the chance to develop their ideas.   In the long term if a few of these ideas pay off the University will have contributed to the economic development of the region.

Stanford and a couple of other universities of that size have similar efforts in technology and entrepreneurship.  The Stanford Center has a series of lectures (which are available as podcasts) from entrepreneurs as well as a wealth of resources to help budding entrepreneurs think about the future.  The differences between Stanford and Mayab are many.  Stanford is significantly larger and has a larger endowment.   What is intriguing about the Mayab effort is their willingness, as they are in many other areas, to become involved in the active part of teaching and learning in their region.

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