Postdoc Involvement in Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Consistent with MIT’s research culture, MIT postdoctoral scholars are increasingly interested in directly creating or joining opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation.  If these would extend beyond the postdoc’s current terms of appointment, several factors need to be carefully considered.

As opportunities become available, it is important to fully understand the details of any immigration regulations and visa requirements as well as whether sponsored funding or fellowship terms impose restrictions on effort.  Successful participation requires advance planning. 

Check with your faculty supervisor, the key administrative contact for postdocs in your area or your area’s HR representative, and the International Scholars Office to fully understand the conditions of your current visa (if applicable), and any issues with research sponsors that must be taken into account. 

On-campus activities with minimal time requirements may not pose problems, while commitments outside MIT and/or more extensive arrangements require careful evaluation and planning. Keeping in mind that postdocs may not do consulting work (see MIT Policies and Procedures 5.3.2 and 5.3.3), reduction in effort in certain circumstances is one option to investigate. Careful review of conflict of interest provisions is also essential.

Summary of Guidelines

Postdocs must consult with their supervisors, their department’s HR representative, and, when applicable, the International Scholars Office, when considering changes or additions to their original terms of appointment. Activities of international scholars must be aligned with the terms of their visa, and any arrangements are subject to visa regulations.

Postdoctoral Associates who are paid entirely from their supervisors’ sponsored research funds devote full-time effort to their research activities unless adjustments are made to their effort and appropriate approvals are in place.

For Postdoctoral Fellows, fellowship terms and supervisor approval will determine changes that can be made in the postdoc’s appointment.

MIT’s conflict of interest and reporting requirements must be adhered to at all times.

See MIT Policies and Procedures sections 5.3.2 and 5.3.3 for more information.

MIT Programs

MIT has programs that foster innovation, including those listed below. 

The MIT IMPACT PROGRAM supports postdocs’ abilities to shape career opportunities and professional networks that better prepare them for roles inside and outside of academia, through an experience that challenges them to explore and defend the real-world impact of their research to diverse audiences.

Another program is StartMIT, which provides opportunities for MIT’s students and postdocs to learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.  It is a two-and-a-half week course in January in which innovators and entrepreneurs from across the U.S. gather to share expertise with participants. Information sessions are held in the fall, with a mid-November registration deadline.

MIT Venture Mentoring Service is a free and confidential educational service for the MIT community. VMS harnesses the knowledge and experience of volunteer alumni and other business leaders to help prospective entrepreneurs learn what they would need to know to begin and sustain a future business. All guidelines outlined above must be followed.

MIT Information Hubs

MIT Innovation Initiative website and their resource pages.

See Resources for Entrepreneurs at the Technology Licensing Office website.

January 2019