NOHRIA: I think that if this does not feel like an integrated neighborhood we will have failed. By integrated, I mean integrated in terms of life and work, integrated in terms of current Allston residents and the new people who will come. Integrated in terms of Harvard and other members of the community.
GAZETTE: Will the Enterprise Research Campus advance Harvard’s teaching and research mission, or is it seen as apart from that?
NOHRIA: I think it has to be integral to that. Our goal is to invite into the Enterprise Research Campus companies that have a research and intellectual intensity. It’s not called the commercial zone, it’s called the Enterprise Research Campus, and I think the word “research” should not be taken lightly. It will become quite intimately tied to the research and teaching enterprise of Harvard University.
GAZETTE: Will students be doing internships there? Will there be faculty research?
NOHRIA: I hope they’ll be doing internships and getting full-time jobs when they graduate. We hope that faculty members will join research projects. There’s already a fair amount of sponsored research across the University. We imagine more of that will occur.
We have one of the most fertile startup ecosystems now at Harvard. Many of these companies, when they grow up, we hope might find a home on the Enterprise Research Campus. They would have natural connections to our faculty, students, and alumni.
GLYNN: I think the investment the University has made in the SEAS building will provide intellectual seed capital to attract companies that are compatible in the way the dean is describing. So I think we will be picking among organizations that all want to be part of this next chapter.
GAZETTE: And do you see a particular size company?
NOHRIA: It’s really important to have a portfolio — to get a good distribution of startups to midsized companies to large companies with research labs here.
GAZETTE: Has this model been used in the past? What other areas could you point to as examples?
GLYNN: I think there’s a lot to learn from the success MIT has had in Kendall Square. I know Brookings did a study four or five years ago that looked at other examples across the country. But Allston is a unique situation where you have available land adjacent to a great university. Most other places have to knock something down to put something up or are more distant from a university.
GAZETTE: Will this strengthen connections with other institutions?
NOHRIA: Absolutely. Once the turnpike project is completed, we will abut Boston University. In some 20- to 30-year future, we will walk across a bridge and take the Green Line. Imagine a University that is connected to the Red Line on the one hand and the Green Line on the other. In a world of autonomous driving, we could get connected even more quickly than through big infrastructure projects. I don’t know what the world looks like 20, 30 years from now, but there’s no other place with the same potential as Allston.
Just think of some of the big centers of innovation on the West Coast that are miles apart. Here, we’re talking about four major innovation districts that are within a few miles of each other: Longwood, the waterfront, Kendall Square, and Allston. The Tufts and Porter Square neighborhood isn’t much farther away. It’s a pretty rare thing to have this much density in one location.
GAZETTE: What are the first steps to getting going?
GLYNN: Nitin and I are having conversations about the [subsidiary’s] structure, the staffing, the budget, how the board is going to interact with staff. While we’re doing that, we can’t afford to let the [planning] work not progress. A lot of great work has been done. We’re not starting from scratch.
NOHRIA: The goal is to create a lean and effective organization. Then there are developers to be found. There’s an RFP that has to be developed. We already have about a million square feet approved by the city. We want to get moving on that work [of creating the research campus infrastructure and buildings]. And then it’s about inviting companies [to work there]. How do we select them? How do we make this compelling so we get the broadest reach?
Then, since there will be residential development as well, what should the street life look like? What does after-hours look like? We would like it to be lively. How do we make sure that that happens? So, that’s the execution side of this.
And then, there’s always long-run planning that we need to continue to do. These 14 acres are Act I. And there isn’t an Act II unless you start planning for Act II even as you’re doing Act I.
GAZETTE: Tom, what attracted you to this opportunity?
GLYNN: Well, there was the opportunity to work with Larry Bacow, who I’ve known for a while; to work with Nitin; to work with [Executive Vice President] Katie Lapp. I’ve been following [Harvard’s Allston development] as a citizen of Boston for a while. I was, for a couple of terms, on the Harvard Corporation’s Committee on Facilities and Capital Planning, so I followed it then. It is a great opportunity to work with great people, and was an easy decision.
NOHRIA: We were attracted to Tom because he’s someone who’s done amazing projects in this city. It’s rare to find someone who’s worked in every institutional setting — with the major hospitals, the major universities, with the state itself. Tom brings a unique set of capabilities and has seen this from all different angles.
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