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Course Overview

Comparative Innovation Ecosystems :: Europe vs Silicon Valley


Continental Europe today serves as the core model for regional innovation economies and ecosystems around the world. Key structural elements of this model include family-owned enterprises, public universities, a strong State role, and a focus on traditional industries, especially manufacturing, commerce and agriculture. Silicon Valley, in contrast, is the leading exception globally to the dominant European model. As Europe faces growing competition from China and the US in computing and artificial intelligence (AI), are its traditional science, industry and growth platforms adequate to secure Europe’s future competitiveness, prosperity, sustainability and societal well-being?

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Course Methodology

Systems Design & Design Thinking

Ethnography & Cultural Anthropology :: Identity, Self-Image, Narrative, Taboo, Groupthink, Herd Behavior, 'Holes'


This course employs a ‘comparative innovation ecosystems’ approach to deconstruct and analyze in depth the fundamental differences - and similarities - between Continental Europe and Silicon Valley. Particular attention is paid to institutional models; to science, industry, engineering and design traditions and cultures; to group identity, taboo, groupthink, herd behaviors, ‘blind spots’ and dominant narratives; and to system performance criteria.
In exposing students to such ethnographic/cultural anthropology methods of understanding group behaviors and mindsets, the course seeks to move beyond the usual Silicon Valley discussion of ‘startups’, ‘venture capital’, ‘innovation’, ‘founder biographies’ and ‘company culture’ - and past the usual European narratives around ‘digital transformation’ and ‘platforms’ - to understand the deeper underlying institutional structures and social foundations of entrepreneurship and innovation on the Continent and in Northern California. And perhaps also to identify new ways forward for Europe and the United States.

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Sponsors 2020

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Center for Design Research (CDR), ME Design Group

Time | Location

Mondays 2:30 - 5:20 PM | Winter Quarter
Building 550 | Room 126 | d.School Building
Stanford University, Engineering Campus
550 Panama Mall
Stanford, CA 94305

Stanford Students & Faculty | Invited Guests
Parking and On-Campus Directions

Schedule 2020 - Year Eleven

January 6

Course Overview & Intro, Strategic Landscape & Methodology; Student Design Projects


Session #1
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Europe's Strategic Challenge: China, USA, Software and Computing

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Using Ethnography & Cultural Anthropology to Deconstruct Innovation Ecosystems

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Student Team Design Projects

January 13

Startups, Venture Capital, Accelerators, University Entrepreneurship, Private Equity, Corporates, M&A


Session #2
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What are the Factors Underlying the Strong Growth of Europe's Startup Hubs and Venture Finance System?

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Europe's Corporations: Startup Engagement,Open Innovation, Mergers & Acqusitions (M&A) and Valuations; Management Practices and Corporate Culture

January 27

Family-owned Enterprises and Management Culture in Europe


Session #3
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How Has the Family-ownership Model Shaped Continental European Thinking About Corporate Culture, Structure, Management and Governance? How Does This Tradition Constrain Culture Change in Companies?

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How Has the Family-owned Sector Shaped the European University and Science Ecosystem?

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How are State-owned Enterprises Similar|Dissimilar to Family-owned Enterprises? in Corporate Culture, Transparency, Use of Information Technology, Governance?

February 3

European Science, Engineering, Design and Industry Traditions, Cultures and Systems


Session #4
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How Have Europe's Strong Science|Mathematics Traditions and Culture Shaped Its Approach to Commercialization of University Inventions? to Teaching of Software Engineering?

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Why are Mechanical Engineering and Manufacturing Accorded High Status in European Universities and Industry? How Does this Compare to the United States?

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What are the Challenges and Opportunities for European Companies to Adopt 'Design Thinking' Practices? How Does 'Design' in Europe Differ from 'Design Thinking'?

February 10

Public vs Private: Universities, Business Schools, Coding Academies; Foundation Universities; University Cultures and Reforms


Session #5
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The Role, Mission, Structures and Governance of Public Universities: Patterns in Business and Informatics Faculties

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The Rise of Competing Models: Emergence of Private and Foundation Universities, Business Schools and Coding Academies; University Reform Initiatives

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How Does the Role, Elite Status, Independence, Accountability and Protection of Professors Influence University Innovation Culture and Science Impact?

February 24

Software & Computing Industry: Status, Competencies, Education & Research, Roadmap and Prospects


Session #6
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How Did Europe Arrive at Its Current Structural Weakness in Computing, Software Industry, Cloud Infrastructure and AI?

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What Happened to Europe's Computer Companies? Olivetti, Nixdorf and Bull

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How is 'Informatics' Different from 'Computer Science'? Foundations, Historical Roots and Current Reforms

March 2

Cleaning House: Corporate Malfeasance||Mis-Management as a Barrier to Innovation Performance; The Roles of Legal and Media Regimes in Exposing Scandal; Transparency


Session #7
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Corporate Misbehavior in Europe

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Corporate Malfeasance in Silicon Valley|USA

March 9

Urban, Infrastructures & Social Innovation; Lessons for Silicon Valley; Student Design Projects


Session #8
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Innovation for The Commons: Urban Design, High Speed Rail, Bicycles, Social Entrepreneurship

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What can Silicon Valley Learn from Europe?

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Presentations: Student Team Design Projects


Featured Videos

Ukraine & Russia - 2015

European Tech Media

Poland & Austria - 2015

UK & Croatia - 2014

Angry Birds & Prezi - 2013

European Market Entry