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The Climate Project at MIT

Critical Climate Mission Leaders


The Climate Project at MIT is a new, whole-of-MIT initiative to accelerate the development of practical solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and to work more effectively with our partners to help identify and implement these solutions quickly. 

The Climate Project will be organized around a set of core missions, each focused on a broad goal that is required for an effective climate response. The initial six Climate Missions are:

  1. Decarbonizing Energy and Industry
  2. Restoring the Atmosphere, Protecting the Land and Oceans
  3. Empowering Frontline Communities
  4. Building and Adapting Healthy, Resilient Cities 
  5. Inventing New Policy Approaches
  6. Wild Cards

The missions will bring together multidisciplinary communities of discovery, invention, innovation, implementation, and assessment reaching across the MIT campus and beyond, to include leading researchers from other universities as well as practitioners, policy experts, and representatives of impacted communities involved in the implementation of solutions.  The mission communities will identify “MIT-hard” problems that are significant roadblocks to progress within their mission areas or whose resolution will open up important new pathways for effective action, and they will launch new projects (Frontier Projects) to develop solutions to these problems.

Each Climate Mission will be led by a faculty lead, working in collaboration with a strong executive director with domain knowledge and complementary skills. An advisory group consisting of leading faculty from across the Institute as well as external experts will also help guide the work of each mission. 

The faculty mission leads will be appointed for a three-year term, with the possibility of renewal. 

MIT will provide significant internal funds to establish the missions, enabling them to conduct their road-mapping and goal-setting activities and launch an initial round of Frontier Projects, 

Roles and responsibilities of the faculty mission leads

Faculty mission leads will have both internal-facing (i.e., within the MIT community) and external-facing responsibilities, leading the process of identifying and launching impactful new Frontier Projects, building the mission community, serving as a spokesperson for the mission, and fundraising. 

More specifically, the mission leads will: 

  • Engage MIT faculty and research staff from a range of disciplines and relevant MIT departments, labs, programs, and centers to participate in the work of the missions, from goal setting and road-mapping to project selection, design, and monitoring progress. True integration of technical, economic, humanistic, and policy perspectives will be essential to the success of the missions and the Climate Project as a whole.
  • Build relationships with external partners, including researchers at other institutions as well as partners skilled at scaling climate solutions (whether through commercialization or other pathways to scale-up); partners will include companies, impact investors, social and technological entrepreneurs, governments, and nonprofits, as well as sponsors and philanthropic donors.
  • Design and guide a process to: 
    • Articulate near- and longer-term national and global goals and assess progress towards those goals 
    • Identify critical gaps and bottlenecks constraining progress as well as promising new pathways for effective action  
    • Determine which opportunities the MIT community and its partners should pursue, i.e., where MIT strengths and assets create comparative advantage
    • Develop a road map and targets for the MIT mission
  • Assume a lead role in resource development to sustain the work of the missions. This will involve articulating MIT’s distinctive capabilities in the mission area to potential donors and sponsors.

Critically, the mission leads will play a proactive role in helping to launch frontier projects, including “big bets,” to attack these targets—working with MIT faculty experts and drawing on perspectives of external specialists to develop and refine these ideas, creating a process for evaluating them, and where possible working with existing MIT labs, centers, initiatives, and programs to implement the projects. A key responsibility of the mission leads will be to encourage and preserve space for out-of-the-box, potentially transformative approaches.

The mission leads will deploy an ‘end-to-end’ perspective on the innovation process, working with the Frontier Project leaders and their public- and private-sector scaling partners—including startups, established companies, governments, and community organizations—to eliminate barriers to rapid implementation and accelerate the delivery of solutions at scale. 

The mission leads will collaborate with each other and will serve in the senior leadership team for the Climate Project. They will report to a new vice president for climate.

Key attributes of the mission leads 

  • Academic stature in an area related to each mission
  • Intellectual leadership, including the ability to articulate and communicate a vision for the mission as well as to engage intellectually with the widest range of disciplines across the Institute and recognize the value of ongoing work at MIT that is relevant to the mission
  • Strategic leadership, including the ability to match opportunities with MIT capabilities and to create new bridges with industrial, financial, policy, and community partners
  • Organizational skills, including the ability to convene and organize road-mapping, evaluation, and problem-solving projects
  • Communication and fundraising skills
  • Collaborative strengths across multiple types of stakeholders
  • The ability to move quickly

If you would like to be considered for one of the six Climate Mission faculty lead positions, please write to to submit your CV and a brief statement of interest. More information will be provided to applicants. You can also use this address to nominate a colleague for the role or share your thoughts about the search. 

Join the effort

We welcome any faculty who would like to be considered as one of the Critical Climate Mission faculty leads. Please submit your CV and a brief statement of interest, and you’ll be contacted with more information.