Super Cities №14 — “Go East, Old Institutions”

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

MIT goes to Hong Kong

The MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node yesterday announced the opening of its permanent, 5,000-square-foot facility, which will serve as a hub for collaborative innovation and entrepreneurship for MIT students, professors, and alumni, as well as others working in Hong Kong.


Like its rival Stanford, MIT is an American institution that tends to be ahead of the curve. For generations, it has been a leader in the most critical waves of innovation. Other universities marvel at its foresight, and this comment highlights why.

In an attempt to claim innovation-by-proximity, many universities and companies are setting up satellite operations in San Francisco. They try to be hip — relaxed dress code, ping pong tables, expensive iced coffee — but, apparently, don’t at all understand what drives innovation.

Unsurprisingly, MIT is not in San Francisco but has, instead, established a permanent, innovation-focused hub in Hong Kong. Good on ‘em.

The MIT hub in Hong Kong has several key advantages:

  • It creates a center of gravity for MIT alumni. These alumni can now come together in a neutral place with a familiar brand. This strengthens graduates’ ties back to the university.
  • It creates a physical recruiting space for the next generation of MIT students.
  • It plants a flag and sends a clear signal: In this vital region, we are here, and we are here to stay.

MIT in Hong Kong highlights an essential truth: there is a global race — some may call it a war — to access and raise elite talent.

So far, MIT is winning.

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