We often hear of the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in driving U.S. economic growth and prosperity. I am a strong advocate of increased emphasis on and funding of STEM education initiatives. We all know that technological innovations arising from state-of-the-art knowledge in STEM fields have the potential to solve some of our global economy’s biggest issues (e.g., sustainability, healthcare, hunger, etc.) and create enormous economic value and rise global standards of living.
But I often find that the debates over the value of STEM education are missing a key element: the need for advanced business education and knowledge to translate technological advances into value-creating innovations.
Arden Bement, the former Director of the National Science Foundation, focused on the importance of innovation rather than merely technology leadership in driving economic prosperity. Innovation involves figuring out how to create economic value with new technologies and invariably requires the ability to develop new business models. Dr. Bement argued that the latent innovation potential in emerging technologies often wasn’t realized due to the lack of business rather than scientific knowledge. He called for more government funding of business as well as STEM education. This is music to my business educator ears. I am all for more STEMM (STEM plus Management) or STEEM (STEM plus Entrepreneurship) education funding to help develop the innovators who will drive the next generation of sustainable economic growth in the U.S.
At Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, we are committed to STEMM and STEEM education regardless of government funding priorities. For example, we offer courses in innovation and entrepreneurship to students from all of our colleges, including engineering and science. Those science and engineering undergraduate students interested in a heavier dose of management education can enroll in our business minor program or one of our interdisciplinary minors such as social entrepreneurship or sustainability. Graduate students can enroll in our “lab to ventures” program, and all students have access to the mentoring and funding services provided by IDEA, our student-run venture accelerator. Over 60 percent of the 182 ventures in the IDEA accelerator today involve non-business students. Importantly, many of these ventures epitomize the STEEM or STEMM philosophy right from the start, with as much emphasis being placed on designing the new business model as refining the technological breakthrough.
I am excited to be part of a university and leading a business school that really “gets” the benefits of STEEM/STEMM education and is investing in programs, activities, and research centers which foster value-creating innovation and not just technological advances. I hope that other business schools and universities will also supplement their ongoing STEM efforts with similar STEEM/STEMM programming soon. While I know that this will make the competition for the best and most innovative students and faculty even more fierce, in the end we will all benefit from living in a more innovative and prosperous global economy.