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MIT Better World

By Kris Willcox

Today, our innovation ecosystem has never been stronger. Below are stories of MIT alumni and friends who are helping MIT foster environments that spark entrepreneurial success, initiate creative collaborations, and share our approach with the world.

“[MITdesignX] is a very healthy way to create innovation.”

Blending disciplines is part of daily life for Liam Thornton SM ’92, executive vice president of development for Live Nation Entertainment and a graduate of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P). Thornton says his work developing music venues places him “at the intersection of real estate development and live entertainment.”

“I’ve been fortunate to use my MIT experience as a platform in my career,” says Thornton, who studied at SA+P’s Center for Real Estate. Today, he fosters interdisciplinary education by supporting MITdesignX, an academic program at SA+P dedicated to design innovation and entrepreneurship. “MITdesignX is all about innovation in the built environment,” he says, noting that the program draws from many parts of the Institute, including SA+P, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the School of Engineering. “This is a very healthy way to create innovation.”

Through his contributions, Thornton bolsters MIT values that align with his own, including using “design-driven methodologies to address the multiple dimensions of a challenge, from political and economic aspects to technology and design issues.” He hopes his support will inspire MITdesignX students from a variety of disciplines to seek solutions to real-world problems in a spirit of innovation and creativity “while giving them the practical tools to make their ideas a reality.”

“Innovation Node brings out the best of MIT here in Hong Kong.”

As a native of Hong Kong and a devoted MIT alum, David Wu ’90 is delighted to be part of the MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node—MIT’s first regional center dedicated to fostering innovation. Wu, who is president of the MIT Club of Hong Kong, says the Node extends generations-long connections between MIT, Hong Kong, and the Greater China Region. “I find it very rewarding to support a new base for MIT here in my hometown.”

Since its launch in 2016, the Node has hosted a range of events and programs (some in conjunction with the MIT Club of Hong Kong), including student hackathons and a startup boot camp called the MIT Entrepreneurship and Maker Skills Integrator. The Node also supports Smart City, a sustainability project that engages the MIT Media Lab with Hong Kong’s urban planning; Wu calls this initiative a perfect example of the Node’s potential to “build solutions for real-world problems facing our region and the world. This is innovation at its best.”

“The driving question of the MIT Better World Campaign was, ‘How can we leverage the best of MIT to make the world a better place?’ The MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node really does that, and brings out the best of MIT here in Hong Kong,” says Wu. “For me, there’s no better way to express my enthusiasm for this initiative than through a financial gift.”

Supporting Innovation and Entrepreneurship at MIT