August 4, 2017

WPI to open innovation center at Fort Point in Boston

Courtesy/WPI
WPI will open a student research center at 303 Congress St., in the glass building at center, in Boston's Fort Point neighborhood.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute is joining a rush of engineering and technology companies to Boston's Fort Point neighborhood.

The college said Thursday it will open a 6,400-square-foot space this fall for students and faculty to conduct research projects with corporate sponsors and tech partners just down the street from General Electric's new headquarters, a planned major presence from Amazon, and where Red Hat recently opened a satellite office to complement its Westford offices, among others to move to that part of the Seaport.

WPI said the new space will allow students easier access to industry partners, government and non-government agencies and others. Sponsors of its student projects have included the city of Boston, New England Aquarium and the state Department of Public Utilities and Department of Energy Resources.

The new space at 303 Congress St. is now under renovation, and is expected to open by October. WPI signed a seven-year lease that goes into effect this month.

WPI's new presence in Boston comes as the school plans a broader economic development effort across the state. In April, WPI launched PracticePoint at WPI, a health care project funded in part by a $5-million state grant that includes UMass Medical School and Bedford research company MITRE as partners.

WPI President Laurie Leshin said the school is committed to advancing colleges' important role in the state's innovation economy. The Boston satellite will allow WPI to "bring more opportunities back to our campus and our home town of Worcester," she said.

WPI already had similar collaborative-use programs in Boston and Nantucket, but not in its own dedicated space as it will in Fort Point, said Stephen Flavin, the school's vice president and dean of academic and corporate engagement.

"We're always looking for opportunities to connect, and the Seaport really presented a great opportunity," he said.

The space is being designed for different types of research without a traditional classroom-type setup. Aside from research, the space could also allow for symposiums or other events with nearby companies, Flavin said.

WPI, which has a longstanding partnership with GE, began looking at opportunities in that area of Boston soon after GE decided it would move its headquarters there from Connecticut. "That got us thinking," Flavin said, "what could we do if we were in the Seaport with those partnerships?"

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