A Holiday Message
From Our Executive Director

Dear Members of the Mack Community,

The Winter Holiday Season is an opportunity to reflect on the year that is ending and to make plans for the one that is coming. For me, it means summarizing my initial experiences in the role of Executive Director of the Mack Institute and translating them into an action plan.

I have spent the last four plus months getting acquainted with the Institute’s vibrant programs and its talented and experienced team, learning on the job through engaging in the Institute’s ongoing activities: an MBA course on Collaborative Innovation, academic and practitioner conferences, alumni events, and a new round of competition for the Y-Prize among Penn students interested in commercializing the faculty’s new inventions. Meeting with faculty and staff across Penn’s schools and centers, research fellows, representatives of student associations and corporate partners gave me a good sense of our current positioning and promising future directions. I would like to share with you a few ideas and updates.

The Mack Institute thrives on the strengths, interests, and energy of its stakeholders: faculty, students, and partner companies. Our primary goal is to support cutting-edge research on innovation and entrepreneurship being done by Wharton faculty, which guides students’ experiential learning and companies’ innovation practices. To bolster this support, we are launching a new predoctoral research fellowship program, and will welcome our first fellows this Spring.

While the discovery of new knowledge through research is our primary goal, we’ll put more emphasis on the innovation management tools that embody such knowledge. Innovation tournaments and the business model innovation toolkit are only two examples of Wharton faculty’s inventions that the Mack Institute intends to make easily accessible to the Penn student community and our corporate partners.

Wharton faculty has made path-breaking contributions to the research on innovation ecosystems, an increasingly popular innovation management tool for companies, entrepreneurs, and local and national governments. The Mack Institute is uniquely positioned to translate accumulated knowledge into action for the benefit of Penn as a whole. This is not something entirely new. The Institute has been involved with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Perelman School of Medicine, Venture Lab, Penn Center for Innovation, and other of Penn’s innovation hubs in various ways. The time is right to develop longer-term joint projects that create synergies from participants’ unique strengths. For example, we are currently exploring linkages between the Institute’s Program on Vehicle and Mobility Innovation and the Engineering School’s basic and translational research on autonomous driving. Similarly, considering Wharton faculty’s long-standing focus on innovation in healthcare, robotics in healthcare is another promising area for collaboration. Both projects will require innovation in underlying technologies, product design, insurance policies, regulations, and organizational practices – a truly multidisciplinary endeavor. We are planning to set up the projects in a way that serves a dual purpose: to develop ecosystems around these technologies and to generate new data for furthering the study of innovation management.

Historically, the Mack Institute has been focused on established companies and their challenges in dealing with disruptive technologies, while other members of Penn’s innovations ecosystem have worked predominantly with startups. Established companies and startups have strengths and weaknesses that are often complementary. We are currently exploring ways to facilitate dialogue around specific technologies or industries, and to share our knowledge and any available tools that could nurture collaborative arrangements.

I hope the described initiatives and this Newsletter as a whole give you a flavor of our current pursuits and plans. I appreciate your sharing your feedback and, most importantly, engaging in our activities in 2023. In the meantime, I wish you Happy Holidays and an enjoyable and productive New Year!

Dr. Valery Yakubovich
Executive Director, The Mack Institute for Innovation Management