Some details are leaking out about what was happening over in Europe that resulted in the massively overhyped MIT Media Lab Europe to close last month. Basically, it sounds like a combination of a two things: unrealistic expectations and a culture clash -- the same things that meant a similar media lab in India was shut down as well. The European media lab was launched with great fanfare and great expectations a few years ago by those who thought they could simply transplant what had worked in Boston to Ireland. The problem was that American companies had seen the US version of the media lab for many years and knew its track record. Also, US companies seem more willing to sponsor such things as a kind of "why not?" investment in creative entrepreneurialism. Europe still isn't quite as entrepreneurial (though, thankfully, some are trying to change this), and to think that companies in Europe would immediately jump up to fund the lab was a mistake. The second issue was even more of a cultural issue, where new management looked at the lab and explained the problems (oh so descriptively) by pointing that the lab environment was "hell," "chaos" and "inmates running the asylum." This could, in part, just be the somewhat laissez-faire attitude towards research that is more common in the US, but can certainly seem problematic to those who are expecting real, direct ROI -- or those who need to justify a government budget, since the lab was funded in part by the Irish government.
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