It’s fitting that the word “Hi’’ hangs from the facade of Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab, a 30,000-square-foot, $20 million upgrade of the former WGBH building on Western Avenue. The ribbon-cutting at the site last week marked a milestone in Harvard’s long-awaited expansion across the Charles River into Allston. The university should infuse the rest of its plans for the neighborhood with the same upbeat energy.
The i-lab, as it’s being called, is designed to be a lot of things for a lot of people: For Harvard students, an incubator for new ideas; for Allston neighbors, a place for meetings and continuing education; and for the city at large, a focal point for the blossoming start-up community.
What’s less certain is if the university’s attempt to institutionalize its students’ entrepreneurial spirit will produce real-world results. Two of Harvard’s most famous tech entrepreneurs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, decided they were better off dropping out of school - and ditching Massachusetts for the West Coast. One goal for the i-lab must be to convince more young innovators to stick around, whether in Allston or not.