Innovation in Business, Energy, and Environment - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Innovation in Business, Energy, and Environment

Course Number 1164

University Professor Rebecca Henderson
Professor Forest Reinhardt
Professor of Management Practice Joseph Lassiter
Senior Lecturer John Macomber
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
28 Sessions

Career Focus

This course is designed for students who expect to be general managers or entrepreneurs in businesses which are particularly influenced by issues in energy, power, water, or other factors that engage natural resources and the environment. Students who anticipate careers in consulting, VC/PE, or investing in businesses touching these areas (including fossil and nuclear energy) will also find the course useful.

Educational Objectives

IB2E has two objectives. The first is to explore the tools of finance, strategy, and marketing as businesses decide how to respond to opportunities - and threats - in conventional energy, new energy, water, food, transit, and related areas. The second is to enhance technical knowledge as the foundation for assessing many of these topics. In addition, the impact on these businesses of regulations, incentives, public opinion, and disruptions to supply chains are explicitly considered.

Typical cases involve new methods and technologies like hydro fracturing, wafers, membranes and materials, or sensors and "big data," or the deployment of innovative business models including optimization, collaborative consumption, and the circular economy. Firms range from startups to very large multinational corporations to investment firms, and from the environmentally dedicated to the environmentally noncommittal. Many firms are not primarily in the energy, water, power, agriculture, or similar businesses but rather experience cost or revenue problems stemming from pressures on these resources. Several not for profit organizations are also studied.

The course takes more of a business strategy and entrepreneurship approach than a policy approach. The course does not look deeply at macro issues in energy and geopolitics, nor extensively at corporate social responsibility. Current events in business, energy, environment, and Cleantech are frequently incorporated into class discussions.

Course Content and Organization

The course is co-taught in one section by the three professors. Prof. Macomber is the course head. There are five modules organized around resource types. The themes of business models, resource efficiency, regulation and incentives, disruptive innovation, and finance recur through all of the modules.

1. Innovation in conventional energy (including hydro fracturing and nuclear as well as generation and distribution)

2. Opportunities in new energy (including generation, transmission, storage, and efficiency)

3. New business models based on resource effectiveness (notably in the water, energy, food nexus)

4. Transit innovation (including internal combustion vehicles, alternate fuel vehicles, mass transit, and individual transport like bicycles and driverless cars)

5. Assessing and communicating unknowns (for example scenario modeling, resiliency, adaptation, and mitigation including possible effects of increased weather volatility; the valuation of externalities).

Course Administration

Students will submit two short papers early in the term and one 8-10 page paper on a topic of their choosing at the end of the term. There is no exam. The paper is often a good way to go deeper on a topic and frame possible Independent Projects for the Winter term.

Cross Registration

Cross-registrants are welcome, with permission in advance.

Complementary Offerings

Complementary offerings include: Energy, Entrepreneurial Finance, Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise, Business and the Big Problems, Building Cities, Real Asset Finance, and Agribusiness