MIT’s New Hong Kong Innovation Node Bridges Cultural and Production Gaps

November 10, 2015 by Jennifer A. Diffley

Shenzhen is half a world away from most designers, which means that there are some very real logistical barriers to bringing products to market. MIT's new Innovation Node could help bridge the gap between design and production.

In the EE world, all roads lead to China.

From LEDs to PCBs, if you're using it in an electronics project, odds are it came from Shenzhen. The problem is that Shenzhen is half a world away from most designers, which means that there are some very real logistical barriers to bringing your product to market. In an attempt to ameliorate these obstacles, designers are usually left paying for expensive trips, hiring negotiation brokers, or sending fruitless email after fruitless email. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has proposed a solution: yesterday it announced it would be opening an "Innovation Node" in Hong Kong, just one hour away from Shenzhen. 


Hong Kong will soon be home to MIT's Innovation Node.


The Innovation Node is essentially product bootcamp. This is ingenious, since there are plenty of eager EEs who are great at designing, but less knowledgeable about the business aspect of bringing products to market: it's much easier to understand the entire process when the factory is only a short drive away. MIT students and faculty will be given the opportunity to work alongside Hong Kong-based students and alumni. The satellite campus plans on collaborating with the Hong Kong community to bring about internships, educational programs like workshops, engagement opportunities, and innovation-focused events. And, of course, there will be a makerspace.


Victor Fung SM ’66, MIT President L. Rafael Reif, and MIT Professor Charles Sodini.


"In preparing for a career in today’s global innovation economy, MIT’s students need an education that presents a global outlook on the challenges and opportunities in innovation and entrepreneurship," says Fiona Murry, one of the Innovation Initative's co-directors. She's right: no longer is it enough to isolate oneself in a lab-- the world is waiting.

Being so close to the world's manufacturing district also allows for opportunities to partner with groups like Level 5, which gets communities involved in designing. There's an additional benefit to MIT's Innovation Node that no one's discussing, and that is giving students immersive education in Chinese business culture. Without knowledge of Chinese business traditions, engineers can offend, become frustrated, or undermine their entire product-- MIT's Innovation Node will allow students and teachers to become equipped to deal with production practices and cultural norms around the world.