Ikhlaq Sidhu Wins 2018 IEEE Major Education Innovation Award

Ikhlaq Sidhu, professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering & Operations Research at the University of California, Berkeley, and faculty director and chief scientist at the UC Berkeley Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology has been awarded the 2018 Major Education Innovation Award by the IEEE Educational Activities Board (EAB) for his contributions in entrepreneurship pedagogy and innovative teaching methods.

“This award also recognizes the many incredible people at Berkeley and our global collaborators who empower others to change the world,” says Sidhu.

Among Prof. Sidhu’s contributions include the co-creation of a unique teaching method called the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship, which emphasizes an understanding of the mindsets and behaviors that most likely lead to entrepreneurial success.

A veteran of industry, where he earned more than sixty patents, Sidhu joined Berkeley in 2005 as founding director of a new center in the UC Berkeley College of Engineering called the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology. With a focus on opening up the university environment, Sidhu sought to not only create innovative teaching models to change the way that students learn, but also to transform the way that entrepreneurship programs are taught.

Upon its opening, the Center offered one course: IEOR 190A: Technology Entrepreneurship.  Sidhu has since grown a vibrant community of innovation activities that today include an applied curriculum of thirteen courses for over 1,500 students every year, connections with Silicon Valley’s leading technology firms, a dozen global academic university partners, and notable spin-offs such as the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership and SkyDeck, the primary new venture accelerator of the Berkeley campus.

From the first days of the Center, Sidhu realized the value of connecting students and campus programs with the off-campus world, with networks of experts, advisors, investors and many other industry relationships. This effort started with the development of the A. Richard Newton Series, a course featuring famous guest lecturers such as Marc Andreessen (Netscape and A16Z), Marissa Mayer (Google, Yahoo!), Vinod Dahm (Father of Intel Pentium), Michael Olson (Cloudera), Charles Huang (Guitar Hero), Ben Horowitz (A16z), Auren Hoffman (LiveRamp), John Battelle (Wired magazine) and John Hanke (Google Maps, Pokemon Go). The series attracted students from across campus into a curriculum designed to help them learn to build real life technology startups as well as skills that would be useful in any professional career.

Bringing some of the world’s most interesting entrepreneurs and innovators to Berkeley made Sidhu realize that learning their mindset, behaviors, and other personal characteristics could be an important part of helping students innovate and succeed. This was one of the key insights that led to the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship, an approach which he developed with Ken Singer, to teaching entrepreneurship and innovation that is focused on developing the mindsets of budding entrepreneurs.

To begin developing entrepreneurial mindset in students, Sidhu launched Berkeley’s Venture Lab in 2008 to allow students to learn ‘in-situation’ — i.e. by getting hands-on experience developing real startups and working with innovators who already had entrepreneurial mindsets. Venture Lab was the precursor to SkyDeck, which the Sutardja Center invested in along with the Haas School of Business and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. As of this writing, SkyDeck now offers $100k seed grants to student teams and has supported 138 teams since its founding.

Two years later, Sidhu expanded the Venture Lab to be the Global Venture Lab. Developing global partnerships would help the SCET expand its reach further than any other entrepreneurship program in the world. Through this global initiative, the SCET would learn as well as share its philosophy of the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship to dozens of countries, and bring new professors, collaborators, and students to Berkeley, enriching the innovation ecosystems for all that it touched. With this, the Sutardja Center became a global hub for learning entrepreneurship and innovation.

Shortly thereafter, in 2011, Sidhu continued to build connections to industry when he launched the Engineering Leadership Professional Program, an executive program in Silicon Valley focused on giving rising stars in technology companies leadership skills and an understanding of emerging technologies. Since its launch, the program has been in high demand and served students from prominent companies such as Google, Apple, Yahoo!, Samsung, VMware, and Facebook. This program was developed when Sidhu realized that the insights developed in the Berkeley’s approach to entrepreneurship and innovation would also be valuable in larger companies. While developing the UC Berkeley T-shaped design of the professional master of engineering degree, he created an alternative version that was suited for executives and professionals, and thereby created the first significant executive education program for the College of Engineering. The Engineering Leadership Professional Program also helped Berkeley forge new and lasting relationships with companies, bringing projects, mentors, advisors, and other leading innovators to campus.

In 2015, the Center’s benefactors, Pantas Sutardja & Ting Chuk made an endowment gift to help sustain the center in the subsequent years.  After graduating from Berkeley, Pantas and Ting lived through the entrepreneurial experience of starting and developing Marvell Technology Group.  After seeing the value and growth from the Center’s first 10 years, they felt that the best way to magnify the impact of Berkeley students’ career paths was to support and institutionalize the Sutardja Center to become a permanent part of UC Berkeley.

More recently, Sidhu has turned his attention to emerging technical areas like data science, but with a focus on rapid technology implementation. He started his career with fifteen years of world-class technology development experience, and realized that students would benefit from being able to integrate mathematical theories, open source tools, and the processes and behaviors used in real life innovation. His IEOR data science class is very popular, growing at 50% enrollment per semester, and is teaching students how to build real world AI and data projects in a three month class (see data-x.blog). These projects include topics such as predicting energy prices, detecting knee cartilage conditions from CAT scans, and discovering fake news. The projects from the course, which are created using the same open source tools that are used real life technology development, are now resulting in research papers and new venture team formation.

The Sutardja Center continues to mix the future of X (where X represents emerging technologies and industries) with learning innovative mindsets, behaviors, and new teaching approaches. In 2017, the SCET launched three new labs: the Data Lab, Blockchain Lab, Sustainable Foods lab, with additional lab areas under development, because students want to learn and apply work in areas where the book not yet been written.

Today, the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, led by Prof. Sidhu, offers thirteen courses, serves over 1,500 students, and continues to develop new models for developing entrepreneurs and innovators around the world by developing their mindsets and working toward an open university environment.