Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lowell, MA: Home to Innovation Once and Again

Yesterday, the M2D2 Innovation Hub opened up in Lowell and I hopped in a car with Workbar co-founder Bill Jacobson and his director of community development Alexa Lightner to drive up
Alexa, the smiling face of Workbar at
the start of the day's journey
to the ribbon cutting, shake some hands, eat some prefab Caesar salad and hear lots (and I mean “lots!”) of politicians take their 2 minutes at the mike when it came time for speeches.

UMass president Marty Meehan, one
in a long line of speakers at the mike

To be fair, the pols were excited and they had every reason to be.  What UMass under the leadership of president Marty Meehan and Lowell campus chancellor Jacquie Moloney has been able to accomplish in this building near the Hamilton Canal is impressive. The transformation of an old industrial site into a place where entrepreneurs, 3-D fabricators and people in lab coats are starting companies represents a huge step for a city that was home to the American Industrial Revolution but has seen harder times since.
Bill (r) with Steven Tello of UMass Lowell (c)

Bill and Alexa had their own reasons to be there. Workbar, the shared work space model already in Cambridge and Boston, will operate the shared space in Lowell. One of the greatest innovations of the 21st century surely must be the increased sharing of resources, adding to their value by extending their availability. Workbar represents that and has proven its efficacy in hotbeds like Cambridge. Pushing that model out to underserved areas was on the minds of all the speakers at yesterday's event, and they let it be known.

The Lowell efforts are also highly reliant on partnerships and Workbar is only one of the many that make this place go. UMass Medical School in Worcester is seen as a critical part of M2D2's success. Med school chancellor Michael Collins noted the critical role this joint effort between the two campuses represents.

As someone who's been interested in this topic for quite some time, Lowell strikes me as indicator of how existing resources can be put to reuse in very productive ways. Oh, and it was also just a fun, fun day.

Here are some more photos from the trip ...

The interior redo on the Canal Street building
 is all about light and air.

Long open corridors define the space.
The innovation hub


The old industrial past is never far away

nor is the infrastructure that facilitated it

And here's a cool chair!