Course Overview

Have you ever wondered where to locate your start-up? Have you thought about how you and your organization might improve your local innovation ecosystem? Have you asked what makes Kendall Square special as a place for entrepreneurial firms and what other regions might learn from our experience?

REAL (Regional Entrepreneurial Acceleration Leaders) is a practical MIT course aimed at students wishing for a research-based but action-oriented understanding of how to accelerate innovation-driven entrepreneurship and build vibrant regional economies. It takes as its starting point the innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystems (IDE Ecosystems) that have served as the foundation of many successful regions since the first industrial revolution, and now characterize places such as Silicon Valley, Boston/Cambridge, London, Israel and Singapore.


The course takes the perspective of five critical stakeholders: entrepreneurs, risk capital providers, and universities, as well as policymakers (government) and large corporations. It provides frameworks for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of innovation-driven entrepreneurship in particular regions, and then focuses on interventions – programs and policies – that can be designed and implemented across regional economies worldwide.

The course is taught by Professor Fiona Murray and Dr Phil Budden.

Course Format

We aim to have a strongly interactive class (with around 30 students) that meets once a week (Tuesday 5pm-8pm), and remote participation is available (especially to accommodate eMBAs). There will be readings for each session and students will be expected to be prepared to make insightful and thoughtful contributions to class discussions.

Class sessions will take three different forms:

  • Focus on different approaches to entrepreneurial acceleration e.g. Porter’s cluster approach versus Feld’s entrepreneurs approach.
  • Case studies of different regions – either individual regions or as a paired comparison.
  • Analyses of specific programs and practices with examples e.g. design of accelerators

Is This Course For You?

The course is open to students from across the MIT community and beyond. It is likely to be of particular interest to students from MIT Sloan and DUSP as well as the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Business School. Students in the TPP, EMBA, MBA, and SF programs will find this of particular interest. We believe that students engaged in the Legatum Center, D-Lab and IDEA Challenge will also be valuable contributors to this course. Remote class participation is possible, especially to accommodate eMBAs.

Students from a variety of different backgrounds and perspectives will benefit from the class.

  • Entrepreneurs will find the course an opportunity to understand their broader ecosystem in more depth and thus be more effective at navigating it and drawing upon its resources. They will also learn how to be more effective at “giving back”.
  • Public-policy makers will learn about a critical and timely aspect of government policy, one that has traditionally been outside the purview of government but is increasingly important. They will learn how to interact effectively with the entrepreneurial community and what policies and programs are most (cost)effective.
  • Large corporate leaders and managers will learn some of the most effective ways to engage with their local entrepreneurial ecosystems such that they will create a more vibrant regional economy and be more connected to potential future entrepreneurial partners.
  • Risk capital providers – VCs, angels or those running prize competitions or accelerators – will learn how to more effectively design their programs to have greater impact on their regional ecosystem.
  • University researchers will find the course to be an opportunity to design more effective links from university research into the entrepreneurial community and beyond.

Interested students are welcome to review the syllabus.


Must Reads

These are examples of the material which is likely to be covered in this course.