Among many memorable lines from the 1984 comedy classic This Is Spinal Tap, a "mockumentary" about a fictitious English heavy metal band, is manager Ian Faith informing the band that “the Boston gig has been cancelled,” only to add, “I wouldn’t worry about it though. It’s not a big college town.”
The joke, of course, is that Greater Boston boasts one of the world’s highest concentration of preeminent institutions of higher learning, including global leaders Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and other bright stars such as Berklee College of Music, Boston University, Northeastern University and Tufts University. Home to one of the nation’s most educated workforces, this fertile environment also makes “America’s College Town” a hotbed of incubation, investment and innovation.
In a city where some of the world’s best and brightest minds collaborate on transforming discovery and knowledge into opportunity, key steps in the cycle include making presentations, exchanging ideas, networking and connecting face-to-face, all of which also make the wider region an exceedingly intelligent choice for meetings and events.
“Thanks to the world-class colleges and universities in Boston and Cambridge, we are viewed as a region of invention and of innovation, which put another way, are the special sauce that drives Boston’s economy,” said Patrick Moscaritolo, president and CEO of the Greater Boston CVB. “Recognized as the nation’s top life sciences cluster in the nation, Boston is where magic happens as researchers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and academics come together to change the world with their discoveries and their collaborations,” he continued. “For planners organizing their Boston meetings and conventions, utilizing the networking and other resources provided by our academic institutions and business clusters provides a unique opportunity to create their own magic.”
Centered in the Boston region, the innovation economy of Massachusetts rivals California across key metrics such as R&D, job growth and economic impact, led by leading-edge performance in sectors such as biopharmaceuticals, medical device manufacturing, software and communication services, and healthcare. Not surprisingly, as Moscaritolo noted, “more than 80 percent of Boston’s meetings are in the medical, biopharma, life sciences and tech space.”
Presently ranked third in the U.S. and sixth in North America for international association meetings by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Boston is leveraging its innovation economy to aim for a higher overall profile.
Founded in 2015 by Harvard, M.I.T., Massachusetts General Hospital and The Boston Globe, HUBweek is “a creative festival that celebrates innovation at the intersection of art, science and technology.” Designed to help elevate Boston’s reputation as a center of education, healthcare and innovation both in the U.S. and abroad, the second edition of this week-long “civic collaboration,” held in September, featured some 120 mostly free events at various venues around Boston. Along with forums and panel discussions, there was art, music and “Brew the Charles,” featuring tastings of beer made by six local brewers using Charles River water purified by Newton-based Desalitech.
The festival is reportedly aiming to become Boston’s answer to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. “Can it attract people like notable festivals like South by Southwest, and can it become more populist?” James Rooney, chief executive of HUBweek sponsor the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce told The Boston Globe. “It needs to increasingly climb that ladder, I think.”
Groups, meanwhile, can heighten their Boston experience at a diverse range of inspiring venues.
Through its Events and Conferences department, Boston University offers non-university planners and groups one-stop services for meetings for five to 5,000 delegates, with versatile spaces ranging from ballrooms and classrooms to Agganis Arena for major sporting events and concerts. Housing options are available from May to August.
Merged with The Boston Conservatory in June 2016, Berklee College of Music, the world’s leading college for contemporary music education, presents more than 1,500 concerts and events on campus and in the Boston area. As available, rentable spaces include the Berklee Performance Center and David Friend Recital Hall; planners can also book Berklee-trained student musicians to perform at events.
Straddling the Charles River, the Museum of Science offers a new 4-D theater and recently completed Yawkey Gallery, a new $11 million gallery, exhibit space and special event space.
Other thought-provoking group-capable venues include the Boston Public Library, and Harvard Medical School-affiliated Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary & Schepens Eye Research Institute.
With cleantech and greentech prominent in Boston’s innovation ecosystem, standout venues include the LEED Platinum–certified BSA Space at the Boston Society of Architects. Housed inside LEED Platinum-certified Atlantic Wharf, Boston’s first “green” skyscraper, the facility offers multiple galleries and breakout rooms for private events.
Also practicing high environmental standards is the luxurious 318-room Langham, Boston. In March 2015, the property became the first hotel in North America to achieve Gold Certification with EarthCheck, a leading global provider of environmental management and professional services for the travel and tourism industry.
Housed in the landmark former Federal Reserve Bank building near the convention center, the Langham hosts up to 380 people in elegant boardroom and ballroom space. Having completed a $6 million lobby renovation that included seven function rooms and more than 5,000 square feet of meeting and event space mirroring its historic interior in 2014, the hotel is planning a renovation (date yet to be announced) of second-floor spaces, including the Wilson Ballroom.
At Babson College in Wellesley, 20 minutes from Boston and Logan International Airport, the Babson Executive Conference Center offers 211 guest rooms and 37 conference rooms for groups of up to 275 people.