Beyond R&D: What Design Adds to a Modern Research University

Christopher L. Magee
Engineering Systems Division
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 01239
Email: cmagee@mit.edu

Jianxi Luo 
Engineering Systems Division    
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 01239   
Email: luo@mit.edu

Kin Leong Pey
Singapore University Technology and Design
Singapore
Email: peykinleong@sutd.edu.sg

Jin Chen
Zhejiang University    
China    
Email: cjhd@zju.edu.cn

Daniel D. Frey    
Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Systems Division  
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 01239    
Email: danfrey@mit.edu

Abstract
The government of Singapore is launching a new university, the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), that is scheduled to take in its first freshman class in April, 2012. SUTD, in collaboration with MIT and Zhejiang University, is striving to establish a 21st century innovation paradigm that recognizes the synergy between innovation and design. Many aspects of such an exciting development are of interest to engineering educators and particularly to design educators and two are covered in this paper.
One challenge addressed in this paper is the possibility for conflicting agendas between design-centric education and the goal of becoming a leading research-intensive university. An overview of research intended to address this conflict –that of the International Design Center that is jointly part of MIT and SUTD- is given. It is argued that, rather than conflicting, design-centric education and research-intensity are synergistic for a 21st century university. The second challenge discussed in some depth is the setting of “culture” for the new institution that encourages bold attempts to improve the world through technical innovation (“innovation culture”) with breadth in national cultures (“global culture”) bridging from Western to Asian perspectives. Relative to the latter item, a central feature are the “Eastern Cultural” curriculum items being developed by a second SUTD partner university – Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China). The breadth of national cultures and a wide academic disciplinary base as part of the education process are postulated to be enablers for developing a strong 21st century innovation-leadership-culture for the modern research university.

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