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Boston Innovation District – Mayor Menino

Mayor Tom Menino’s ‘Innovation’ vision

By Thomas Grillo, Boston Herald

June 2–Mayor Thomas M. Menino laid out a bold plan yesterday to attract start-up companies and venture capitalists to Boston’s budding “Innovation District,” while also promoting the city’s solar energy future.

Taking a page from Cambridge, but adding a public sector twist, the mayor declared, “We will be one of the first cities in the world to have a public innovation center, a place that fosters this type of collaboration (between start-ups).”

In a speech to the Boston College Chief Executives’ Club yesterday, Menino also said he will launch “Venture Boston,” an initiative to encourage venture capital firms — now mainly clustered in Waltham or Cambridge — to move to the South Boston waterfront district.

Michael Greeley, general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, a Back Bay-based venture capital firm, said Menino is trying to replicate a Cambridge initiative called “CriticalMass,” a collection of a dozen venture firms that work with entrepreneurs.

“I think the mayor is onto something,” Greeley said. “The idea is to get investors and entrepreneurs together in a place where the venture companies hear pitches of these start-ups, watch their progress so they can raise initial money to get a product built.”

The proposed Hub innovation center — to be built as part of the massive Seaport Square project — promises to allow small firms to generate ideas and mingle with larger firms already located in the Innovation District, which have access to capital and the ability to expand those ideas.

Menino also promised that his administration will hold a “Solar Challenge” with the goal of generating a megawatt of solar-powered electricity in the Innovation District by the summer of 2013.

Dot Joyce, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said the goal is to convince building owners and solar companies to install solar panels on rooftops to generate power.

“The idea is to purchase solar panels and recoup the energy savings as a way to pay for them,” she said. “We will use that model in the Innovation District as a way to power buildings down there.”

Menino said solar energy costs have come down dramatically since the city launched its Solar Boston program in 2008, making the concept more desirable for businesses. “Today, solar can reduce electricity costs by 25 to 50 percent,” he said.

thomas.grillo@bostonherald.com

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