Richard K. Lester

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Richard K. Lester is Professor in the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the founding Director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center.[1]


Lester received his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Imperial College London (1974), and was awarded a Kennedy Scholarship to study at MIT (1974–76), where he received a doctorate in nuclear engineering (1979). From 1977–78 he was a Visiting Research Fellow in International Relations at the Rockefeller Foundation. He has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1979.[2]

Nuclear power and waste management[edit]

First at the Rockefeller Foundation and later as a member of the MIT faculty, Lester developed a number of projects focusing on the management and international control of nuclear technology. During the mid-1980s he led a study of the role of innovative nuclear power technologies in restoring the economic viability and social acceptability of nuclear power in the United States and elsewhere.

He also made contributions to the field of nuclear waste management, introducing a graduate course on this subject, serving on the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Radioactive Waste Management, and publishing (with co-author Mason Willrich), Radioactive Waste: Management and Regulation (Free Press, 1978). During this period he held the Atlantic Richfield Professorship in Energy Studies at MIT.

Made in America: Regaining the Productive Edge[edit]

In 1986, as an Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering, he was appointed Executive Director of the MIT Commission on Industrial Productivity, and led the research that culminated in the publication of Made in America: Regaining the Productive Edge (MIT Press, 1989.)

He also authored the Productive Edge (W.W. Norton, 1998), an analysis of America’s industrial resurgence during the 1990s.

MIT Industrial Performance Center[edit]

In 1992, Lester founded the MIT Industrial Performance Center.[3]

In this position, he has published the following:

  • "Unlocking Energy Innovation: How America Can Build a Low-Cost, Low-Carbon Energy System" (MIT Press 2011), co-authored with Douglas Hart
  • Made By Hong Kong (Oxford University Press, 1997), co-authored with Suzanne Berger.
  • Making Technology Work: Case Studies in Energy and the Environment (Cambridge University Press, 2003), co-authored with John M. Deutch, United States Deputy Secretary of Defense (1994 - 1995), Director of Central Intelligence (1995 - 1996).
  • Innovation – The Missing Dimension (Harvard, 2004), co-authored with Michael J. Piore. This proposes a new framework for developing and sustaining the sources of creativity and innovation in the U.S. economy.

He has also co-authored The Future of Nuclear Power (2003) and The Future of Coal (2007).

Consultancy and trusteeship[edit]

Lester serves as an advisor or consultant to corporations, governments, and private foundations and non-profit groups, and lectures frequently to academic, business and general audiences on developments in the industrial economy.

He also serves as a trustee of the Kennedy Memorial Trust of the United Kingdom.[4]


External links[edit]