[Image above] Credit: John Carleton; Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The University of Arizona will launch a new master of engineering in innovation, sustainability, and entrepreneurship (ME-ISE) degree in fall 2015.

According to the university’s website, this “technical MBA” will offer a combination of business-oriented classes and engineering courses to help engineers bridge the gap between innovative ideas and sustainable economic development strategies.

“The world is changing in terms of the need for new products and technologies that can be designed to be sustainable throughout their entire life cycle, from manufacturing through ultimate disposal,” says Bob Rieger, associate director of the program. “The Master of Engineering in Innovation, Sustainability and Entrepreneurship degree from the University of Arizona is designed to teach those skills and tools to the material science community.”

Rieger, who’s understandably eager to talk about the new ME-ISE degree, was kind enough to respond to our request for more detail. Our questions and his answers follow.

Q. Why now?

A. We believe the disciplines associated with the field of materials science, like all advanced technologies, are reaching a critical juncture. Identification of innovative technologies that can be commercialized, development into sustainable products, and the myriad legal, competitive, and regulatory issues surrounding this have become increasing complex. In order to be first to market with new products in today’s world, you need to move fast. This means the luxury of exploring every innovation and conducting every test imaginable before deciding whether there is a chance of commercial success is no longer a workable business model. Rather, in addition to superior technical skills, you also need the business skills to rapidly sift through many innovations to identify those that have the greatest chance of success. Concurrently, you need to be evaluating the regulatory, intellectual property, sustainable manufacturing, and competitive landscapes. Both technical and business tools exist that allow an individual to predict and optimize these issues without having to perform laborious tests. The new ME-ISE degree at the University of Arizona teaches these skills and tools. This is very important for those people wishing to start their own companies (entrepreneurs) and those responsible in a structured corporate environment for developing new products (intrepreneurs).


Q. Why the University of Arizona?

A. The University of Arizona is uniquely situated, both academically and geographically, to offer the ME-ISE degree. Our School of Material Science and Engineering within the greater College of Engineering hosts centers of excellence in resource extraction, water use and management, energy generation, and advanced manufacturing such as semiconductor fabrication. Being situated in the southwest, these issues have been important for a historically long period. The ability to study and manage materials development from their initial extraction through to an advanced, innovative product is the result of our history and investment in faculty and physical laboratory and prototype manufacturing resources. In addition, the College of Engineering has acknowledged expertise through their offering of engineering management and systems integration curricula developed by industry partners, such as Raytheon Corporation.


Q. When do you plan to begin offering the ME-ISE degree?

A. We are currently in the process of accepting applications for our inaugural class to begin in fall 2015. The course of study consists of 30 credit hours, roughly split between technical classes and business and management classes. One unique feature of our program is that while it is designed as a residence program, it also has an online counterpart. At present, approximately 70% of the content is available online, with the remaining to be activated within the next 18 months. We feel this online component makes the ME-ISE degree attractive to the working professional.


Q. What kind of training does this “technical MBA” provide that can’t be learned elsewhere? What sets this program apart from other engineering programs?

A. The ME-ISE degree is not intended to be a replacement for a traditional MBA degree. Rather, it is a focused education designed for those students and professionals in fields related to materials science and who are interested in bringing innovative technologies and products to market. The training we provide via this degree is not found in more general degrees. Our curriculum integrates the very specific technical and business issues needed by entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs in material science. Yes, those skills could be obtained in a number of other degrees, but our ME-ISE program gives the student all of the content in one coherent degree.

 To learn more about the ME-ISE degree, click here or watch the quick clip below.

 Credit: SSES AZ; YouTube