Campus & Community

Michael Porter to lead new Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness

6 min read

Organization has an interdisciplinary and global agenda

Harvard University announced June 28 the establishment of a new interdisciplinary Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness (ISC), based at Harvard Business School and directed by Michael E. Porter M.B.A. ’71, Ph.D. ’73. One of the world’s leading authorities in these fields, Porter is Harvard’s Bishop William Lawrence University Professor.

In keeping with Porter’s broad research agenda, which has influenced scholars and practitioners in governments, companies, and other institutions around the globe, the new institute will serve as a center for research, curriculum development, and executive education concerning the nature of market competition and its impact on company strategy; the economic development of nations, regions, and cities; and the relationship between market competition and social concerns.

Research at the institute will span a wide array of topics, such as regional cluster development, the impact of the Internet on competitive positioning, antitrust policy, and strategies for philanthropic organizations. (See the institute’s Web site at In pursuing these avenues, the institute aims to collaborate with interested faculty and related programs in different parts of Harvard and beyond.

In addition to Porter, the institute is comprised of a team of eight research and administrative staff members, as well as a visiting research fellow, Örjan Sölvell, professor of international business at the Stockholm School of Economics and director of its Institute of International Business. Plans call for the ISC to host a succession of visiting scholars, as well as maintain relationships with other academicians who are not in residence.

One of the institute’s fundamental goals is to share its concepts and findings as widely as possible, both with scholars and with practitioners and policymakers in business, government, and non-governmental organizations. In addition to books, articles, working papers, bibliographies, and speeches accessible via its Web site, the institute will disseminate a series of information products developed under Porter’s leadership.

These include:

  • National Competitiveness Profiles. Annual profiles of the competitiveness of more than 60 nations, drawing on a proprietary analysis of trade statistics, selected data from the Global Competitiveness Report (an annual project co-chaired by Porter), and other sources. These profiles focus on competitiveness at the microeconomic level, including the corporate practices of national companies, in contrast to other more macroeconomic measures. 
  • Regional Cluster Maps. Data on the composition of state, regional, and metropolitan economies in the United States collected since 1998. This unique body of information reveals the share of industries serving a local market and those competing with other regions; clusters of industries with particular local strength; and an area’s performance in terms of employment, wages, patenting, and new business formation. 
  • Company and Industry Financial Performance. Data on the business-segment financial performance of every public company in the United States over the past 20 years, compared and analyzed using powerful statistical techniques. These data, based on a series of studies by Porter in collaboration with Boston University Professor Anita McGahan, allow firms to better understand and benchmark their performance over time. 

To extend its impact, the institute will also work closely with a number of other organizations, including the Latin America Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development at INCAE, a business school in Central America (; the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy at Japan’s Hitotsubashi University (; the Center for International Development at Harvard (; and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (, a national, nonprofit, private-sector initiative founded by Porter in 1994 and based on his extensive research on economic development in America’s inner cities.

Another important institute priority is the formulation of curricular materials concerned with the microeconomic foundations of economic development. Addressing the challenges of development from a firm-based perspective, these materials will complement more established top-down, macroeconomic approaches. Beyond providing course materials available for use in programs at Harvard and other institutions in the United States, the institute hopes to extend its reach through the use of Web technologies. Pilot programs are already being planned with INCAE and with the Baltic campus of the Stockholm School of Economics.

The institute, working through Harvard Business School, also intends to host or cohost a variety of special educational programs for top-level business and government leaders. Among the contemplated offerings is the New CEO Workshop, an invitation-only session for recently named chief executive officers of leading corporations, and an annual forum for finance ministers conducted in conjunction with Jeffrey Sachs of the Center for International Development at Harvard.

Commenting on the establishment of the new Institute, Harvard Business School Dean Kim B. Clark said, “Throughout his distinguished career, Michael Porter has been an intellectual pioneer – creating the modern field of business strategy, using microeconomics as a lens for examining competitiveness in many areas, and spearheading programs that have been a force for change in inner city businesses through the country. Now, with the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, he has begun another important venture that will be further strengthened by its links with scholars throughout Harvard as well as other universities. Under Michael Porter’s leadership,” Dean Clark continued, “the Institute will quickly become a highly valuable and visible source of important ideas, information, and analysis that will extend the reach and impact of Harvard’s intellectual capital. This is a tremendously exciting undertaking.”

Said President Neil L. Rudenstine, “This new Institute promises both to deepen our academic understanding of strategy and competitiveness and to bring that understanding closely to bear on important challenges facing different organizations and societies. Its leader, Michael Porter, is a person of exceptional imagination and energy, and he will guide the enterprise with his rare blend of creativity, analytic capacity, vigor, and skill.”

Based at Harvard Business School, the institute will be housed in a three-story structure that dates from the opening of the School’s Soldiers Field campus in 1927. Designed by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, the building first served as the HBS Faculty Club. Renamed in 1991 in honor of Gipp L. Ludcke (a 1925 Harvard Business School graduate) and his wife, Eleanor, the interior of the building is being restored to reflect its 1920s origins. It will reopen in July.

“This institute’s strategy will continue to be defined and developed over the coming years,” Porter observed. “At its core, it aims to cross disciplines and make new connections. This Institute seeks to foster the integration of competition and corporate strategy – traditional Harvard Business School concerns – with economic policy and social development in ways that not only advance theory but also connect with actual practice. It will be a vehicle for partnering with scholars throughout Harvard University as well as with leaders in academic, corporate, and public life throughout the world.”

Porter has been a member of the Harvard Business School faculty since 1973 and was named the Bishop Lawrence University Professor last year. A University Professorship is the highest professional recognition that can be given to a Harvard faculty member.

The author of 16 books and more than 75 articles, Porter has served as an adviser to many companies and government bodies in the United States and abroad.