After months of discussion and collaboration, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has unanimously approved Harvard’s plans to transform a vacant building in Allston into the Harvard Innovation Lab.
The Harvard Innovation Lab is a new and innovative initiative that will foster team-based and entrepreneurial activities and deepen interactions among students, faculty, entrepreneurs, and members of the Allston community. It will support Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s innovation agenda and activate a building that once housed WGBH-TV’s studios.
The Innovation Lab will encourage entrepreneurship and innovation across the University, bringing together many cross-curricular interests, including Harvard College, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, the School for Engineering and Applied Science, and the Harvard Kennedy School.
In addition to its educational focus, with classrooms and meeting areas designed to serve both undergraduate and graduate students, the Harvard Innovation Lab will also support the local business community by providing public areas, meeting rooms, and business development resources for businesses, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and others in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood and the region. This will be a central place where students and local businesses can work together, share knowledge, and collaborate on ideas.
“Innovation is absolutely in the air,” says Cherry A. Murray, dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and the John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “How can we leverage all this intellectual energy? I see the Harvard Innovation Lab as having the potential to become an indispensable resource for the entire campus, connecting existing innovation programs at the schools and the College into a Grand Central Station for entrepreneurial thinking. As a hub, the new lab will bring together faculty, students, alumni, local community members, and industry professionals, empowering everyone to dream, create, and change the world for the better.”
Organizations including SCORE, the Small Business Administration, the Center for Women & Enterprise, and the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network have committed to a generous schedule of one-on-one coaching and business advising, workshops, and training sessions in the Innovation Lab. It will also host lectures, panel discussions, and presentations that will be open to the public, as well as networking events for student teams, local businesses, and nonprofits.
“The Innovation Lab is an entirely new model for Harvard. It is an innovation in and of itself. We’re delighted by the unanimous support of the BRA board and the many community members who have expressed their enthusiasm for this project, which will also be part of the University’s efforts to enliven Western Avenue,” said Gabe Handel, managing director of the Dean’s Office at Harvard Business School.
“I want to thank Harvard University and the Harvard Business School for all the work they have done in including the community in the development of this project, which will help revitalize Western Avenue,” said Alana Olsen, executive director of Allston Village Main Streets. “I look forward to continuing to work together on this project.”
When the Innovation Lab opens next fall, Harvard will provide transportation services between the Lab and the Harvard Square and Longwood campuses to ensure easy access for undergraduate and graduate students. MBTA bus and subway service will also provide access to the facility, and the use of Zipcars and bikes will be encouraged to help contribute to the sustainability of the environment.