At Harvard, A Real-Life Technology Learning Lab

By WGBH News

Nov. 23, 2011

BOSTON — There’s a new innovation center in town… and it’s not in Kendall Square or Boston’s growing “Innovation District” at Fort Point. It’s the $20 million Innovation Lab at Harvard in what happens to be WGBH’s former home in Allston. The "I-Lab," which formally opened its doors on Nov. 18, is meant to give the university’s entrepreneurs a home and to foster connection and collaboration.
For junior Scott Crouch, it was already happening.
“Before the I-Lab, Harvard’s entrepreneurs were really segregated. There wasn’t much collaboration,” he said. “But now we’re all here working together, kind of in groups. The ability to bounce ideas off each other’s been phenomenal.”

Crouch works on Rover, a Harvard-associated student-run company that develops apps for iPhones, iPads, Androids and websites. He said the new setting had especially helped the company hold usability testing to see how real people use its products. “The I-Lab has really facilitated that. We can have people coming in here, testing our products… [we’re] getting to know the market a lot better than we ever could before,” he said.
The I-Lab is one element of Harvard’s larger effort to create a science-and-technology hub in Allston. It’s across the street from the construction site of the Harvard Science Complex — though that $1 billion project is at a standstill for financial reasons.

Workshops on the fledgling lab's calendar include "Understanding the Evolving Mobile Ecosystem" and "Disruptive Innovation (Part II)." Type in a link incorrectly, and you'll get a smirky, mildly snarky error message: "Woah! That's pretty innovative; you've found the 404 page. Congrats!"
Harvard President Drew Faust said that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who famously left Harvard for the West Coast to found his company, has requested a tour of the I-Lab facility. The university is hoping it can give a new generation of young entrepreneurs a reason to stay at the school.

Watch a Harvard video about the I-Lab or check it out on Twitter @innovationlab.

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