June 2nd, 2011

Innovation District Chief Execs lunched at the CEO Club

This Wednesday, we lunched at the CEO Club’s annual event at the best seat in the house- next to six of the Innovation District’s newest CEOs: Buzzient’s Tim Jones, Scott Eckert Heartland Robotics, Mad Pow’s Amy Cueva, MITX’s Debi Kleiman, GreenTown Labs/Coincident’s Jason Hanna, and Aisle Buyer’s Andrew Paradise.

In her introduction to the Mayor, Weber Shandwick’s Micho Spring mentioned Boston’s success is attributed to the Mayor’s keen ability to “adapt to the changing needs of the City” and the Innovation District is another example.

Here’s the official release from the City and below is the part of the Mayor’s speech on the Innovation District:

“Boston is growing, not just because we are doing so well in our neighborhoods and in our schools. But also because cities, and our city in particular, is a great place for collaboration. That’s my message today.

Seeing this, hearing it first hand from the entrepreneurs and researchers in town, a year and a half ago I launched our Innovation District strategy. I said that we would turn 1,000 acres on the South Boston waterfront into a place that fostered these kinds of collaborations for startups and research-based companies. We would build an area that concentrated our already great assets – human capital, university connections, life science and technology leadership – in one place to drive innovation. We would focus on jobs and housing and social infrastructure to do this. And the Innovation District would be a key strategy for continuing Boston’s growth and leading in the years ahead.

How’s it been going? A week ago Monday, Vertex Pharmaceuticals received FDA approval for its new hepatitis treatment. It has the potential to generate revenues of more than one billion dollars. The FDA approval was a big deal for Vertex. Yet, they will tell you the strongest fist pumping, wasn’t in their boardroom. It was the three million hepatitis patients in the U.S. that had the most cause for celebration.

Likewise, earlier this year, when Vertex announced their move to Boston’s waterfront, there wasn’t a lot of chest-bumping in City Hall. It was the 33,000 other workers already on our waterfront that celebrated most. More collaborators were coming their way.

And in a few weeks, when Vertex breaks ground on one million plus square feet; when they start moving in some of their 1,700 employees; when they create another 500 jobs, it will be the other 50 companies in life sciences, clean tech, social media, and mobile technologies that moved to the waterfront recently that will be celebrating alongside them. Because each of their successes is driven, in part, by the talent and the success around them.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. To see that collaboration is thriving on Boston’s waterfront, you just have to ask the companies that are moving down there.

Ask Tim Bernard Jones. Tim moved his company, Buzzient, to the Innovation District last year and into bigger space there this year. They develop technology that helps businesses connect social media to their traditional work. Tim posted to his blog about the Innovation District and said, “Geography is Destiny.” With its proximity to the financial district, to South Station, to customers, and to restaurants, the Innovation District is a “natural concentration point.” Tim said, “All roads converge here, so there is an opportunity to concentrate forces quite easily.” I couldn’t agree more.

Or ask Vertex. They will tell you their move to Boston is motivated above all else by a need to get out of ten buildings and back to a comprehensive campus. To “get back to collaboration” as they say, where they can trade ideas with colleagues in the hallways.

Or ask Scott Eckert of Heartland Robotics, where they are developing the next generation of robots to increase manufacturing productivity. Or Diane Hessan of Communispace or Andrew Paradise of AisleBuyer. Several of them have joined me today. Ask Boston’s chief collaborators what is happening there and they will tell you the same thing: They want their employees to be close to each other, they want to be close to other innovators, and just ten minutes from the airport – they want to be close to the world.

And if you really want to see something different happening here, go to one of the half a dozen companies in the Innovation District that incubate other companies:

MassChallenge, the world’s largest start-up competition had a successful first year. Its finalists raised more than $30 million in funding and hired more than 300 new employees. Applications were up 74% for the 2011 competition. The finalists come from five different countries and 34 states.

Fraunhofer, the German research institute, recently broke ground and will provide some of their 50,000 square feet to incubate clean tech companies. GreenTown Labs is in the district and offers shared work space for CleanTech start-ups. Drydock Labs is on the way, and offers similar arrangements for Life Sciences Companies.

And increasingly, companies that are located in the District are opening up their own space for others to use for starting-up or getting together. BoCoup moved into bigger space so they could host more partners. NPR Digital Services, which has just moved into the district, will make space available for new media entrepreneurs.

This kind of collaboration was unheard of decades ago. Competitors would hardly open their mouths to each other. Now, they are literally opening their doors.

Our job in government is to help foster and further these kinds of collaborations. Over the next year, you can expect we’ll add to our activities.

We’ll step up our efforts to green the district, which will lower the costs of doing business there and send a huge signal that Boston is home to cutting edge green companies.

As a start, we’ll launch a “Solar Challenge” with a goal of generating a megawatt of solar powered electricity in the Innovation District in two years. That’s enough energy to power 250 new units of housing. Solar energy costs have come down dramatically since we launched our Solar Boston program in 2008. Today, solar can reduce electricity costs by 25 to 50 percent.

The Innovation District is already home to SatCon, the largest solar inverter manufacturer in North America. It’s also home to one of the largest rooftops in the region at the Bronstein Building.

I am also directing my energy team to explore a public-private partnership for providing municipal, commercial, and residential solar energy city wide.

And our solar efforts are just a start. I will also direct my team to complete an energy audit for our Marine Industrial Park in the Innovation District to identify additional opportunities to find energy savings in these buildings. These efforts won’t just reduce costs and conserve energy, they will also make Boston a great customer for the products our companies invent.

We’ll launch “Venture Boston”, an effort to engage Venture Capital companies more explicitly in the Innovation District and to encourage them to have a more prominent presence in the area.

We’ll open our own Innovation Center, a place to meet, to network and to have chance interactions. We know that million dollar VC deals, billion dollar development deals, and business hires routinely happen outside of the office in common spaces. We will be one of the first cities in the world to have a public innovation center – a place that fosters this type of collaboration.

In the Innovation District, we’ll break ground on several new developments in the next year. At Seaport Square, a 6 million square foot project, architects have already been selected on parcels B and C. At 319 A Street, construction on new live/work spaces should begin in 2011.

On our waterfront, Boston is creating one of the great economic clusters in the country.

This kind of progress is happening across our city. Hayward Place will bring additional life to Downtown Crossing, which is already well on its way back. And two billion dollars of other projects are already under construction right now. More than 4,000,000 square feet of new space…until the Vertex work begins this month and makes that 5,000,000.

More buildings, more jobs, more residents, more people. And more people equals more talent and more collaborators. More people means more ideas.”

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