We are living in interesting times where it is the individuals like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, and not countries, that are reaching for the stars. When new technologies like cell phones are taking a few years to adopt when compared with multiple decades for telephones in prior times. These historically improbable events are happening because of the perfect storm due to our deeper understanding of manipulating life using CRISPR, fashioning of nano machines, exploitation of globally connected data capture, use of cloud based deep learning, to name a few. While all this progress is exciting, it is increasing the disparity between those who have the capabilities and those who don’t. The impact can be seen in the growing economic backwater in middle America when compared with the coasts, where most of the investments and innovation is happening. This is also true of most developing countries that are unable to get on to the technology adoption curve.

At the same time another major shift has occurred that creates room for hope. For the first time in the history of mankind we can now access the raw material, talent and resources needed to create new products. With global supply chains and marketing channels, anyone connected through the internet can develop, market, deliver and support their products and services. The ability to harness the global market brings the economy of scale as well a bigger variation in price point and features.

Navigating through the myriad aspects of a globally competitive new product development is a complex endeavor. Large companies educate their employees through a large number of special courses, internships and external programs. These learning facilities are not available to the vast majority of people not having access to such nurturing eco-systems. Based on first hand experience of leading development across continents for industry, I am convinced that this lack of education in the “Practice of Engineering” is what is holding many of the less developed regions back from being able to participate in the global economy. Some of this practice of engineering is formally being taught in a peripheral sense in an MBA and a myriad of specialized courses in marketing, supply chain, project management etc.

In response, I founded the Nova Initiative which aims to provide structured education focused on teaching how to approach the complex task of developing and executing all the different phases of developing a globally competitive new product. The hope is that this will allow regions, people and companies all across the planet, create value and ensure a lack of extreme disparity.

Written by: Imran Khan, Faculty Robotic Software Engineering

For more information on the Software Engineering program or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.