Tech innovator supports program for engineers to become entrepreneurs

College of Engineering alumnus and tech innovator Michael Sherman is the man behind Northeastern University’s Michael J. and Ann Sherman Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship Education.

Scheduled to launch this fall, the new program’s curriculum is designed to arm engineering undergraduates with the appropriate entrepreneurial skills to successfully pitch and commercialize their innovations. Workshops and courses will be led by Northeastern faculty and innovators from industry.

“We need to ensure that engineering students are able to communicate in the commercial world,” said Sherman, who graduated with a bachelor of science from the College of Engineering in 1968. In some ways, he said, the “commerciality of innovation is more important than the innovation itself.

“It doesn’t matter how good your product is,” he explained. “If you can’t make a business case for its viability then you won’t be able to bring it to market.”

The center complements Northeastern’s commitment to fostering entrepreneurship on campus and will work closely with faculty in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run venture accelerator.

“Michael’s passion for turning innovative engineers into savvy entrepreneurs resonates deeply with our mission at Northeastern,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. “Our students thrive on infusing their knowledge with real-world experiences. Michael’s support will be instrumental for our engineering students and the sustainability of their inventions.”

Nadine Aubry, dean of the College of Engineering, shares Sherman’s passion. “Engineers create products but without taking those to market, what’s the point? Business considerations need to be an integral part of the engineering design process; otherwise engineers waste time designing products that will never be used,” said Aubry, who met Sherman shortly after she had expressed her vision to introduce entrepreneurship in engineering education as new dean last fall. “Michael and Ann’s investment will allow the college to introduce entrepreneurship in our engineering curriculum at a much larger scale.”

Sherman has 40 years of experience in communications hardware and software development, including wireless applications for military, government, and commercial use. His business, AES Corp., of Peabody, Mass., produces and installs leading-edge security products for organizations and households in more than 130 countries around the world.

Sherman grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved to Boston in 1963 to attend Northeastern. He credited co-op with giving him the confidence to excel in the business world. “Gaining experience in the work environment made me realize that I could accomplish the business objectives I desired,” he said. “I have always considered Northeastern integral to my career success.”

This multi-million dollar seed investment is a testament to Sherman’s loyal and ongoing support of his alma mater during the last 25 years. He is grateful to be in a position to give back to Northeastern’s crop of burgeoning engineers. “Engineers and the engineering profession will exist long into the future if they are able to become the commercial engines of innovation,” he said.