Massachusetts politicians understand what powers innovation in their state: academic research, often funded by corporate or federal dollars, which produces spin-out companies, which produce jobs. They often quip that the secret formula is, “Start a couple great research universities, and then wait a few hundred years.” (Harvard dates back to 1636, Tufts 1852, MIT 1861.)
Boston-area universities have recently hatched fast-growing companies like Akamai, HubSpot, iRobot, Editas Medicine, and Facebook. (Not all remain in the Bay State, of course.) And the city is home to an array of venture capital firms that supply funding, as well as shared workspaces like LabCentral, Greentown Labs, and MassRobotics that provide shared workspace and equipment.
All that creates a fertile innovation scene that attracts corporates who want to keep an eye on the latest research; hire recent grads; and invest in or acquire startups. Players like Microsoft and Mitsubishi are among the old-timers, but more recent arrivals include ASICS, the Japanese shoe company, and Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical firm. You can see 50+ innovation hubs on the map below, including shared startup spaces that have corporate involvement or sponsorship, as well as R&D or investing outposts that are part of Fortune 500 companies.
Dark pink pins indicate innovation and R&D centers run by large companies; blue pins indicate accelerators, incubators, and shared startup spaces.
Innovation and R&D Centers
Amazon’s Cambridge science and engineering teams work on Alexa, the company’s sometimes-sassy digital assistant; an AWS team is based across the river in Boston’s Fort Point Channel neighborhood; and Amazon Robotics headquarters are based in the suburbs, in North Reading. Amazon opened its doors in Cambridge in 2012.
The Japanese shoe and active apparel company acquired Fitness Keeper, a Boston startup, in 2016. The office works on digital strategy and new product development.
Software-maker Autodesk describes BUILD as “a unique industrial workshop and innovation studio focused on the future of making things in the built environment – the places we live in, the buildings we work in, and the infrastructure we rely so heavily upon.” The facility opened in fall 2016.
Bristol-Myers Squibb R&D
This site opened in 2018, with 300 workers focusing on genetic diseases.
CVS Health Digital Innovation Lab
Opened in 2015, the facility focuses on “developing cutting-edge digital services and personalized capabilities that offer an accessible and integrated personal pharmacy and health experience,” according to CVS.
This group inside Eastern Bank is chartered to “create new technologies from banking’s rich data and digital assets.” Eastern Labs was created in 2014 and rebooted in 2018.
Eli Lilly Innovation Center
This makerspace located in Kendall Square is geared to enabling “life science experts and organizations to explore how emerging technologies and connectivity can advance drug delivery and device innovation to improve patient health.”
Facebook’s Cambridge-based site works on technology development and recruiting for the California-based social network.
The mutual fund giant has a team focused on the future of investing, with 150 employees (not all based in Boston).
Flextronics Boston Innovation Center
According to Flextronics, a contract manufacturing firm, this 17,000-square foot space is a “concepting, design, and production facility that supports startups and large multi-national customers.” Focus areas include health, robotics, textile and apparel, energy, and mobility.
Google Cambridge Campus
About 800 company employees work on products like server software that powers YouTube, the Chrome Internet browser, and Flight Search. Google Ventures also has a presence here. An expanded campus opened in 2014.
IBM Watson Health & IBM Research
Opened in 2016, these IBM facilities will eventually be home to about 700 employees focused on applying IBM’s Watson “cognitive computing” platform to the healthcare industry, in addition to IBM Research teams. According to the company: “Many of the researchers in Cambridge are associated with the Collaborative User Experience (CUE) Research Group. CUE merges expertise in human work practices with technological innovation, creating new applications and product enhancements that anticipate and support the collaborative process. The IBM Center for Social Software, also headquartered in Cambridge, involves members of IBM labs all over the world doing research on social software.”
John Hancock Lab of Forward Thinking
Launched in 2015, the LOFT focuses on cultivating “forward-thinking solutions” for John Hancock’s wealth and asset management and insurance businesses.
Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center
J&J employees look to make investments, establish partnerships, and potentially acquire local healthcare companies.
This facility is the engineering outpost for the Pennsylvania-based lighting and home automation company.
MassMutual Business Solutions Center
This technology development site run by the life insurance firm opened in 2012. According to MassMutual, “…[f]ostering new technology ideas and developing longer term business solutions is the primary focus.”
Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (MERL)
The lab focuses on five technology areas, according to Mitsubishi: 1. Electronics & Communications – featuring wireless and optical signal processing technology 2. Multimedia – featuring speech interfaces, video (de)coding, and compressive sensing 3. Data Analytics – featuring simulation, planning, and optimization 4. Computer Vision – featuring 3D imaging processing algorithms 5. Mechatronics – featuring advanced control of electro-mechanical systems
Merck Research Labs
The 450-employee R&D site for the German pharma company is focused on immunology, oncology, diabetes, and neuroscience. Merck Research Labs opened in 2004.
Microsoft’s New England R&D Center opened in 2007 and is home to research and product development teams as well as a large event space.
Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research
This is the biggest research campus that the Swiss biopharma company operates. Novartis is also the largest corporate employer in Cambridge, with about 2,000 employees. Scientists work on developing drugs to treat cancer, bipolar disorder, autism, and rheumatoid arthritis, among other diseases.
Novo Nordisk Innovation Center
This center is the innovation and dealmaking outpost for the Danish pharma company.
Nuance Mobile Innovation Center
Opened by the speech recognition giant in 2013, the center “is home to the expanding Boston-area segment of Nuance’s R&D team dedicated to advancing breakthroughs in voice recognition, natural language[,] and user interface technologies that are reinventing the relationship between people and technology.”
OptumLabs is a collaborative research and innovation center founded by the Mayo Clinic and Optum, a part of UnitedHealth Group. The lab focuses on “improving patient care by sharing information assets, technologies, knowledge, tools and scientific expertise.”
Piaggio Fast Forward
An R&D team affiliated with the Italian vehicle-maker, Piaggio Fast Forward’s first two products were cargo-carrying robots.
Philips Healthcare & Lighting Research
Dutch consumer electronics company Philips moved its North American research headquarter to Cambridge. Philips has since split into two companies, one focused on healthcare and the other on lighting.
Pfizer Cambridge R&D
This R&D facility has more than 1,000 employees focusing on rare diseases, metabolic disorders, immunology, and neuroscience.
Red Hat Open Innovation Labs & Red Hat Engineering Lab
This new 40,000 square foot facility brings customers in and focuses on “collaboration, sharing, adaptability, and renewal.”
Samsung Research America
Samsung operates both this research outpost and a corporate venture capital team in Boston.
Schneider Electric R&D
This space is the R&D outpost and North American headquarters of the French energy management giant.
Launched in 2014, Shell TechWorks is the engineering-focused outpost of the energy giant.
Stanley Security Futures Innovation Factory
This lab and open innovation outpost for Stanley Security, a division of Stanley Black & Decker, opened in 2017. “Stanley Security Futures Innovation Factory is focused on uncovering disruptive business models and exploring technologies to transform and secure our world. The team will specifically concentrate on automation, additive manufacturing and artificial intelligence in the Security space, as well as the rapid commercialization of breakthrough technologies.”
Staples Velocity Lab
This outpost of the office supplies giant focuses on new approaches to e-commerce.
Saudi Aramco Research Center
Saudi Aramco is the world’s biggest oil and gas company. In late 2013, it opened a research center in Cambridge — one of three in the U.S. The company is also a founding partner of the MIT Energy Initiative.
Schlumberger-Doll Research Center
According to Schlumberger, “SDR comprises five major scientific groups reflecting its historical strength in subsurface measurements as well as new directions that are enabled by a presence in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” The groups are: sensor physics, mathematics and modeling, reservoir geosciences, mechanics and materials science, and CO2 mitigation and sequestration.
Takeda (formerly Shire) R&D
This cancer-focused research site has about 500 scientists.
The defense & aerospace giant’s xPlor program searches for partnerships and ideas that can help grow Thales’s businesses. Launched in 2015 in Cambridge, the space moved to Boston in 2016.
Thomson Reuters Data Innovation Lab
According to Thomson Reuters, this data-focused team “…[e]ngages with the region’s robust startup community and world-class universities to develop innovative solutions for the challenges our customers face today.”
Toyota Research Institute
Opened in early 2016, the Japanese carmaker is exploring driver assist technologies, robotics, and autonomous vehicles.
US Air Force — Kessel Run Labs
This software development outpost of the US Air Force is “revolutionizing the way the Air Force builds and delivers software,” in part by bringing in fresh talent. The space opened in 2018. (Yes, the name is a “Star Wars” reference.)
Verizon Innovation Center
Verizon’s Massachusetts-based innovation center showcases demos focused on smart cities and connected devices. Verizon also brings in partners and customers “to imagine and create the future,” and work with Verizon engineers “to develop, test and refine solutions.”
Accelerators, Incubators, and Shared Spaces
AFFOA – Advanced Functional Fabrics of America
A nonprofit industry collective and research lab that explores the future of functional textiles and fibers. Corporate supporters include DuPont, GAP, New Balance, Bose, and Tesla.
athenahealth – More Disruption Please
This accelerator focuses on disrupting the status quo in healthcare. “The MDP Accelerator invests in high-potential, early-stage startups and provides the resources and customer access critical to their scalability and success.”
Cambridge Innovation Center
Cambridge Innovation Center is a shared office and co-working space for startups and venture capital firms. The building has also provided space for companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Shell — all of which later moved to their own digs.
DCU FinTech Innovation Center
The Digital Federal Credit Union’s shared space for financial services startups is operated by Workbar.
This clean technology and energy incubator has included Shell, and execs from GE, Veolia, National Grid, and United Technologies.
The nonprofit offers shared laboratory space for life sciences startups, with backing from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as corporates like GSK, Biogen, and Pfizer.
This education technology startup accelerator has involvement and sponsorship from McGraw Hill, Cengage, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcour
This accelerator hosts about 125 startups as part of an annual competition. Companies like PepsiCo, Aetna, UPS, and Honda also participate in the program as a way to plug into the startup ecosystem.
The digital healthcare startup space (and related $26 million venture capital fund) is supported by the state and several large payors and pharma company. Formerly known as Pulse@MassChallenge.
This nonprofit operates a shared space for robotics industry startups, as well as an event series. Founding partners include iRobot, Amazon Robotics, Solidworks, and Autodesk.
This co-working space in Boston for emerging ad-tech startups is hosted by the ad agency MullenLowe.