The Harvard I-Lab, Allston and Brighton: Supporting and Growing an…
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The Harvard I-Lab, Allston and Brighton: Supporting and Growing an Innovation Ecosystem.

Photograph of 3 people speaking inside the Maker Studio at the Harvard Innovation Labs

Since its inception in 2011, the Harvard Innovation Lab has opened its doors not only to the Harvard community as part of the One Harvard initiative, but also to its neighbors in Allston and Brighton. Many of the i-lab’s events are open to the public, and are well-attended by members of the Boston community involved in business and technology, budding entrepreneurs in the community, and others interested in how Harvard is setting itself apart as an innovation leader in the twenty-first century through novel approaches to supporting students and community members as they work toward putting their ideas into practice.

Among the myriad opportunities for Allston to engage with the i-lab are many high profile speaker appearances, innovation-focused talks, and other informative, educational, and practical skill-based training sessions put together by the leadership of the Harvard Innovation Lab Ecosystem — which includes the i-lab, the alumni Launch Lab, and some other related projects in development.

From the time it opened in September of 2011, the i-lab has seen community members and Boston innovation ecosystem participants represent as many as 30 percent of attendees at its workshops, lectures, and kickoff events for Challenges and contests. No event exemplifies the growing connectivity between the i-lab and the broader community better than the recent innovation showcase that was a part of the inaugural HUBWeek. That event alone included over 750 participants from throughout Greater Boston.

Additionally, the i-lab has served as the home to many community partner organized events that not only showcase our neighbors in Allston and Brighton, but help shape the promise of the neighborhood as a center for creative and revolutionary businesses — of all sizes — to grow.

We’ve been proud to partner with the Small Business Administration and their partner organizations, including SCORE Boston, the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, and the Center for Women and Enterprise to house their workshops, seminars, counseling and coaching sessions at the i-lab’s Community Lobby and shared community conference rooms.

To date, the i-lab has hosted close to 700 partner-organized events that have brought more than 11,500 attendees through the doors of Batten Hall. This year alone, the Innovation Lab has welcomed more than 2,000 members of the community to nearly 200 events.

We were excited to host SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet on Monday, November 5, as she toured the i-lab with Robert Nelson, SBA District Director for Boston and Hartford (pictured above with i-lab Managing Director Jodi Goldstein) and SBA staff. Administrator Contreras-Sweet was excited to see the depth of engagement between community members and i-lab activities, and the collective opportunities the i-lab/SBA partnership represents moving forward. During the visit, Director Nelson described the recently-concluded fourth iteration of an i-lab-hosted SBA Emerging Leaders program. This program, which many describe as a business management bootcamp, provides small business owners with “the organizational framework, resource network, and motivation required to build sustainable businesses and promote economic development.” During the 2015 program, 25% of businesses enrolled in the program hailed from Allston and Brighton, illustrating the i-lab and SBA’s commitment to supporting local small businesses.

We have also partnered with a number of other local organizations supporting Allston and Brighton businesses and the greater Boston community, including the Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation homebuyers’ program, HBSAAB Community Action Partners’ pro-bono consulting programs for local social enterprises, and Center for Women & Enterprise’s “Build Your Business” workshops.

Together with our community partners and neighbors, we have made great progress in strengthening the innovation and entrepreneurship economy in Boston, and specifically in Allston and Brighton. But don’t take our word for it. Hear it directly from those who deliver and participate in outstanding community programs at the i-lab, below in our Community Partner video.