Vice Provost for International Activities

Photo of Richard Lester

Richard Lester

Office Phone 617-253-7704
Room 4-104


Richard Lester is the Japan Steel Industry Professor and, since 2015, vice provost (formerly associate provost) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he oversees the international activities of the Institute. From 2009 to 2015, he served as head of MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, leading the department successfully through a period of rapid rebuilding and strategic renewal.

Lester’s research is concerned with innovation strategy and management, with a frequent focus on the energy and manufacturing sectors. He is widely known for his work on local, regional, and national systems of innovation, and he has led major studies of national and regional competitiveness and innovation performance commissioned by governments and industry groups around the world. He is the founding director and faculty chair of the MIT Industrial Performance Center.

Lester is also well known for his teaching and research on nuclear technology innovation, management, and control. He has been a longtime advocate of advanced nuclear reactor and fuel cycle technologies to improve the safety and economic performance of nuclear power, and his studies in the field of nuclear waste management helped provide the foundation for new institutional and technological strategies to deal with this long-standing problem.

Lester’s latest book, Unlocking Energy Innovation: How America Can Build a Low-Cost, Low-Carbon Energy System, written with David Hart, outlines a strategy for mobilizing America’s innovation resources in support of a decades-long transition to an affordable and reliable low-carbon global energy system. Lester is also the author or co-author of seven other books, including The Productive Edge: A New Strategy for Economic Growth, Innovation—The Missing Dimension (with Michael Piore), Making Technology Work: Applications in Energy and the Environment (with John Deutch), Made in America: Regaining the Productive Edge (with Michael Dertouzos and Robert Solow), and Radioactive Waste: Management and Regulation (with Mason Willrich.)

Lester obtained his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Imperial College and earned his PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT. He has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1979. He is an advisor to governments, corporations, foundations, and nonprofit groups, and he serves as chair of the National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy.