Last week, I was fortunate to be part of a delegation, along with a small group of some amazing Welsh businesses, to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA.
MIT is currently ranked as the leading academic institution in the World above other prestigious rivals such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Stanford universities.
Although it has just over 11,000 students (and only 4,500 undergraduates), it has become a real powerhouse for new knowledge with eight five Nobel Prize laureates having been affiliated with MIT and £580m spent annually on research.
But what is the real impact of all this brainpower, innovation and technology?
MIT's motto is “Mens et Manus” which translates from the Latin to mean “Mind and Hand” and it is this philosophy which has enabled it to make a real difference in transferring technology from the university to the market-place through its graduates.
In fact, a study from 2015 estimates that over 30,000 companies have been founded by the alumni. These currently employ about 4.6 million people and generate annual world sales of £1.5 trillion, producing the equivalent of the 10th-largest economy in the world.
More relevantly, the study showed that MIT alumni are both entrepreneurial and innovative with 34 per cent considering themselves as inventors, 31 per cent having filed patents and 25 per cent having engaged in new company formation.
So there is much to learn from this incredible academic institution and the good news for Welsh businesses is that the Welsh Government is currently a member of the MIT Industrial Liaison Programme (MIT-ILP), a body established sixty years ago to help create and strengthen mutually beneficial relationships between MIT and businesses worldwide.
So what does this mean for Welsh firms who take part in the MIT-ILP programme?
First of all, it gives access to world-class academic expertise in key science, engineering and technology areas at MIT, enabling firms to monitor emerging innovations in science and technology and explore their potential impacts on their business. As a result, entrepreneurs and corporates from Wales are able to build relationships with key academics working in various fields of science, technology and engineering across MIT.
The ILP also enables Welsh companies to access exclusive workshops and conferences with MIT faculty which can be used to bring outside expert viewpoints into the company’s strategic planning efforts and to explore the impacts of emerging and disruptive technologies on the company’s business.
But it is not only about what MIT can do specifically for each business as the ILP is also a network of over two hundred of the world's leading blue chip organisations, many of whom we met with last week at the annual R&D conference on the MIT campus. As a result, those attending the conferences get direct access to senior executives from some of the best companies globally and this presents a real opportunity for Wales, the Welsh Government and Welsh businesses to link into this exclusive club to generate more investment opportunities.
Therefore, membership of the MIT-ILP can help Welsh firms to keep pace with industry changes, develop new products and processes, and adopt innovative management practices.
With other potential visits planned to MIT in 2019, I hope that other innovative businesses from across Wales will follow in the footsteps of the group of entrepreneurs who took full advantage of their visit to the world’s leading university last week.