The Harvard Innovation Lab succeeded in reaching and involving key constituencies during its first nine months of operation, especially students and faculty from across the Harvard University community.
Student engagement significantly exceeded expectations during this period: there were nearly 14,000 Harvard student visits, with more than half of them representing schools other than HBS. Staff of the i-lab spoke at faculty meetings and met with individual faculty from multiple schools and from Harvard's teaching hospitals. As a result, a core group of faculty users has emerged, together with specific plans for generating broader involvement. Community-focused partner programming attracted participants from the Allston-Brighton area.
Fulfilling its mandate to be a resource to the surrounding Allston-Brighton neighborhood and the Boston community, the i-lab conducted a sustained public outreach campaign through channels ranging from social media to time-honored leafleting. As a result, nonprofit organizations ranging from the Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation to the Harvard Allston Task Force held programs and meetings at the i-lab. There was also sustained activity among the i-lab's designated small business advisory partners—for example, weekly open office hours and a series of workshops sponsored by the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network and SCORE Boston's workshops and one-on-one counseling appointments. The i-lab also welcomes the public to the majority of its own workshops.
The i-lab provides a venue for groups of entrepreneurs across the University: case in point, the 2012 Women's Founders Forums. Initiated by Janet Kraus, serial entrepreneur and HBS senior lecturer, the series gave women with companies in various stages of development the chance to share knowledge and help each other navigate challenges. The vast majority of the group's 21 members were HBS students, joined by others from Harvard College, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Their business ideas ranged from an online end-of-life planning service to a mobile electronic health records solution, and they included a number of fashion-oriented companies.
At each forum, Kraus gave a presentation on a key topic, followed by a question-and-answer session. Then two or three participants presented a business issue they were currently facing. In the final sessions, each entrepreneur presented her business concept and model to a group of experts for immediate feedback.
An initiative of the School's Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship now in its sixth year, the HBS Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program brings accomplished entrepreneurs to the campus to work with students on projects and with faculty on cases and courses throughout the academic year.
The HBS Entrepreneurs-in-Residence also serve as Experts-in-Residence at the Harvard i-lab. Additionally, Experts-in-Residence from Harvard Law School and Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are included in the i-lab's roster of nearly 30 individuals who share their expertise.