Koch Institute Gallery

The Celebration  of Innovation in  Kendall Sq—held on April 29 at  MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research-–  definitely lived up to its title.

Among other innovations I’m still celebrating:

  • A university president (Susan Hockfield of MIT) walked over,  introduced herself and actually seemed interested in learning about ME.
  •   21 speakers got through their material in 25 minutes,  total. (Good thing, because the audience of approximately 150 stood, sipping wine, throughout).
  • Living” bronzed” statues of dead inventors Ben Franklin, Ada Lovelace, and Thomas Edison walked silently around the room–stopping, occasionally,  to pose for photos.
The event, sponsored by MIT and the Kendall Square Association,  was  introduced by Sarah Gallop of the MIT Office of Government and Community Relations and KSA.
Here’s a link to a video of the event–which Gallop sent me a few weeks after the event.
 Hockfield, the first speaker,  described some of the 150  new restaurants and corporations now populating the area.
Community leaders, scientists, technologists,  businesspeople and students then  provided brief rundowns on historic and present day scientific, economic,  community,  and  technologic advances associated with Cambridge.
Science 
  • Rudi Belliardi of the Wellington-Harrington Neighborhood Association described the development of polarizing lenses and quinine
  • Daniel Heller, a fellow at the Koch Institute, said that the Robert Langer Lab, where he works, is seeking ways to target cancer using nanotechnology.
  • Barbara Broussard, president of the East Cambridge Planning Team,  spoke about the development of  synthetic penicillin.
  • Noubar Afeyan, chair and co-founder of Joule Unlimited, explained how his company is developing renewable fuels from waste carbon dioxide.

    Tom Waggener, Physioanalytics and Susan Hockfield, MIT

Economic Development 

  • Dan O’Connell, president and CEO of the Mass Competitive Partnership, provided an overview of economic development  in the Kendall Square Area.
  • Alex Laats, partner Commonwealth Capital Ventures, outlined the origins and importance of  the Internet.
  • Bill Aulet, managing director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, spoke about  the rise of entrepreneurs.
  • Yi-Han Ma, co-president of the MIT Sloan Venture Capital and Private Equity Club, went into the growth of the venture capital industry.
  • Tim Rowe, Founder and CEO of  the Cambridge Innovation Center, and President of the Kendall Square Association, described the area as a “Startup Hive.”

Community 

  • Cambridge Mayer David Maher introduced the topic of  “community;”  Margaret Drury, the Cambridge City Clerk, described her pride at officiating at the nation’s first same-sex marriage ceremony.
  • John Durant, Director of the MIT Museum, told us about the upcoming weekend’s Cambridge Science Festival.
  • Program directors Rebecca Gallo and Caitlin McCormick, described their work at the East End House;  children Selena, Nubian, Ralph and Christelle acted out roles to bring out the current and historic importance of the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House to the city’s immigrant population.
  • Jane Hirschi, Executive Director of CitySprouts, explained the importance of school gardens and kids growing food.
Technology
  • Travis McCready, Executive Director of the Kendall Square Association, described a recent low-tech camping experience in order to emphasize  the growing role of technology in daily life.
  • Gavin Kleespies, Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Society–which provided historical background for the event– spoke on the development of microwave Radar
  • Susan Athey, Harvard Economics Professor and Microsoft’s Chief Economist, described the growth of Internet search–confessing that, perhaps for obvious reasons,  she is biased toward Microsoft’s Bing.
  • Roscoe Thomas, the Area IV Neighborhood Coordinator, told of  the trials and tribulations experienced by Elias Howe before he became  the first in the US to patent a sewing machine.
  •  Rod Brooks,  MIT Professor Emeritus  and Founder of Heartland Robotics and iRobot, spoke on the past and future of robotics.
After the event,  walking by sidewalk art by Robert Guillemin,   the Whitehead Institute, Novartis, and Amgen on the way  to my car,  I felt energized by the creativity, forward-looking spirit and excitement of the gathering. And I mused at how far Kendall Square has come since I first visited there in the 1970s–when it was inhabited mainly by run down factories and empty lots.
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