In 2009, Professor Edward Roberts, the founder and chair of the MIT Enterprise Center, and his doctoral student Charles Eesley, published a remarkable study, Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT. It was generally known that research and technology-intensive universities have an important effect on the economy. The Roberts and Eesley study showed just how significant: “From our extensive data collection and analyses, we conclude that, if the active companies founded by MIT graduates formed an independent nation, conservative estimates indicate that their revenues would make that nation at least the 17th-largest economy in the world. A less conservative direct extrapolation of the underlying survey data boosts the numbers to 25,800 currently active companies founded by MIT alumni that employ about 3.3 million people and generate annual world revenues of $2 trillion, producing the equivalent of the 11th-largest economy in the world.”
The artifacts displayed in the exhibition came from a variety of companies founded or co-founded by MIT alumni and faculty. They showcased only the smallest fraction of the MIT entrepreneurial ecosystem, but invited visitors to reflect on MIT’s abiding institutional commitment to the “useful arts,” which was part of its founding vision.