A History of Over 20 Years
In 2001, the Mack Center for Technological Innovation was established through a generous gift from William L. Mack (W’61) and his wife Phyllis Mack. The Macks also funded the Center’s transition to an institute in 2013, when we became the Mack Institute for Innovation Management. Yet the story of the Mack Institute is much longer, ranging from our origins as a faculty discussion group during the 90s tech boom to our current offerings as a research incubator and major point of connection between the Wharton School and global business leaders.
Adapting To the Disruptive Technologies of the 90s
The genesis of the Mack Institute dates back to 1994, when a group of Wharton faculty formed what was then called the Working Group on Emerging Technologies. At that time, disruptive technologies in the internet and computing fields were exploding, as were the academic disciplines of strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Collaborations with local leaders in tech, life sciences and biopharma led the small working group to become a broader initiative: the Emerging Technologies Management Research Program.
Involvement of William Mack and Institutionalization
When Bill Mack’s generous gift allowed us to become a center in 2001, our focus was still very much on technology. In fact, our name at the time was the Mack Center for Technological Innovation. Our programming focused on deep dives into emerging technologies, but through our work with business stakeholders, we began to recognize a pattern.
Legacy firms with long histories often had trouble coping with new technologies—not just adapting their capabilities and business models, but also recognizing the true threats and opportunities these technologies represented. In other words, even the corporate giants who seemed most stable and secure, were in fact at risk.
It was at this point that we began to turn our attention towards innovation management and developing the research priorities we hold today. By 2007, we had become the Mack Center for Managing Technological Innovation.
Rapid Growth and Solidifying Our Mission
In 2013, we officially became the Mack Institute for Innovation Management, thanks to a further endowment from William and Phyllis Mack. Since then, we’ve developed an intellectual community of not only Management faculty and doctoral students, but faculty and students from across Wharton and Penn.
We’ve also developed a network of corporate partners, ranging from local Philly companies to multinationals based in Europe and Asia. Another major development took place in 2013 when we took over the International Motor Vehicle Program from MIT. Renamed the Program on Vehicle and Mobility Innovation (PVMI), it brings together researchers from around the world in pursuit of cutting-edge research on the automotive industry and the future of mobility. The results of this research serve as an input into discussions among policy makers and practitioners who convene regularly at the Institute.
Most importantly, the Mack Institute has become the place at Wharton to have conversations about innovation. Whether it’s grad students and faculty discussing their research over lunch, business leaders and academics sharing knowledge and experiences at a conference, or MBA students bringing their expertise to our corporate partner network, we’re funding, convening and connecting the most important players in innovation management today.