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Executive Education

The multi-disciplinary school

By Peter Walker for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Not so long ago, business schools taught business and largely left it at that. Now, with the commercial world becoming increasingly globalized and multi-disciplinary, they are having to think in broader terms.

More or less every month, a school announces a joint study program linking business with other areas of knowledge.

Recent examples chronicled on Executive Education include joint business and government programs (see here), socially responsible business (here) and even military MBAs (here).

Now, a leading UK business school has gone a stage further in setting up a specific multi-disciplinary center with two partner institutions, one an engineering faculty, the other one of the most famous art and design schools in the world.

The new Design-London institution, being established at a cost of more than $10 million, is intended to help innovation by bringing together the fields of design, engineering, technology and business.

Its creation follows a major review of higher education carried out for the British government, which specifically recommended that institutions assist the country's business innovation through such "centers of excellence" touching on a number of areas of expertise.

'Innovation triangle'

Design-London joins London University's Tanaka Business School, the science and engineering-specific Imperial College -- of which Tanaka is part -- and the Royal College of Art (RCA), also based in the British capital.

The aim is create what is being dubbed an "innovation triangle" between design (represented by the RCA), engineering and technology (Imperial's faculty of engineering) and the business of innovation (Tanaka).

The founders hope that combined teaching will improve knowledge interchange between graduate students in business, arts and engineering. Research will also explore how design can be more effectively integrated with business and technology to create world-beating products and services.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurial-minded graduates from RCA and Imperial will be given the chance to develop new ideas in the "Incubator," a multi-disciplinary environment for business development allowing collaborations between different disciplines and organizations.

Separately, business partners of RCA and Imperial will be able to build innovation capacity via exercises in the so-called "Simulator."

"This is a really important stage of development for the RCA," said the college's head, Sir Christopher Frayling.

"Building on the triangle of design, technology and business at this high level is good for us and in time will be good, no doubt, for the British economy."

Sir Richard Sykes, head of Imperial College London, said the new institution would help his college's students become more business minded.

"Innovation is an important part of what we do at Imperial and we are constantly exploring new ways of turning exciting ideas into reality, encouraged greatly by the presence of an integrated business school," he said.

"Our previous collaborations with the RCA have sparked some imaginative problem-solving, so I'm delighted that this partnership provides further opportunities for us all to work together to tackle design challenges in a creative and dynamic multi-disciplinary environment."


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Marrying design, engineering and business.

FACT BOX

FT MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Columbia, U.S.
3. Harvard, U.S.
4. Stanford GSB, U.S.
5. London Business School, UK
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Insead, France/Singapore
8. Stern, NYU, U.S.
9. Tuck, Dartmouth, U.S.
10. Yale, U.S.
Source: Financial Times 2007

FACT BOX

MBA BASICS

The classic MBA is a two-year full-time program. Accelerated and distance learning MBAs are increasingly popular.

A typical MBA student has several years' work experience and is in their late 20s.

Those who take an Executive MBA, or EMBA, tend to be older, more senior managers.

Courses are expensive, but the rewards are high -- some new MBAs now get a $100,000 basic salary, according to a survey.

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