The Newton-Needham Regional Chamber has received a $25,000 state grant from the Massachusetts Collaborative Workspace Program to help the Newton Innovation Center (NIC) find a new home.
The grant – which was presented by Lt. Governor Karen Polito at an event in November — was one of two grants from the program to Newton-based organizations. Empow Studios was awarded nearly $90,000 to build a lab in the N-Squared Innovation District focused on providing virtual reality and augmented reality tools.
Started in 2015 as a way to capture and expand the innovation economy outside of the urban core, the NIC is a partnership between the City of Newton, the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) and the chamber, and has grown into a key component of Newton’s entrepreneurial culture. The NIC provides co-working and offices for companies that are looking to scale, serving nearly 70 entrepreneurs daily. However, the current space suffers from several limiting factors, including limited parking and event space.
“The NIC’s current home at the former Newton Center Library at Newton Corner is pushed to its limits while still more entrepreneurs want to take advantage of the community developing there,” said Newton-Needham Regional Chamber President Greg Reibman. “We are actively working with the CIC and the city to identify a new home and this grant will help us find the right new location, support build-out costs and establish an operating model.”
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said she is looking forward to finding a new home for the Newton Innovation Center.
“The NIC has a proven record of attracting entrepreneurial talent to Newton and we are looking forward to partnering with the Chamber and the Cambridge Innovation Center to grow that energy and spirit,” Fuller said. “Whether it’s researchers in the biotech field or the venture capitalists who drive investments, we have to give them a place to grow those companies so Newton is not just their homes, but home to their businesses too.”
“We’re very thankful to have received this grant as it will play an important role in helping the NIC reach its next level of development. CIC is looking forward to being a part of those next steps,” added Mark Moreau, strategic operations director with the Cambridge Innovation Center.
Empow Studios will use its $89,931 grant to build a lab focused around state-of-the-art virtual reality, augmented reality, gaming, 3D photography, display and digital production equipment at its new headquarters on Needham Street in the N-Squared Innovation District. Empow currently focuses on 7 to 14 year olds, but the new lab would be aimed at older students, including those in high school and college, as well as adults.
“The space will serve pre-professional learners, young professionals, entrepreneurs, software and game developers, career changers, nearby businesses, educators, artists, hobbyists, retirees – really, anyone who wants to learn the new technologies hands-on,” says Empow Studios Founder Leonid Tunik. “We’ll offer something for learners at any level, from novices who would like to gain basic understanding of today’s technologies, to teens and young adults who want to explore potential careers, to professionals looking to develop, produce, and test their projects,” adds Tunik.
“The digital space proposed by Empow is exactly the kind of opportunity we need in the N-Squared Innovation District,” said Chuck Tanowitz, director of the N-Squared Initiative. “Not only will this engage with the student population here, but it will also have a positive impact on the professional opportunities available to residents of the Needham-Newton area and will also benefit employers in the N-squared district by creating opportunities for workforce development”
The two Massachusetts Collaborative Workspace Program grants to Newton were part of more than $2.2 million to 28 organizations to strengthen community-based innovation and entrepreneurship in 21 communities across the Commonwealth. Statewide, collaborative workspaces have reported more than 7,000 users, garnered 2,000 members and occupy approximately 375,000 square feet in cities and towns across Massachusetts.
“The Collaborative Workspace Program provides a shot in the arm for entrepreneurs looking to develop or grow a coworking space within their community,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss. “MassDevelopment is proud to oversee this important program on behalf of the Commonwealth, and we congratulate all those receiving awards.”