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Boston Institutions To Host 'HUBweek' In Fall 2015

An empty Fenway Park. (Karen Testa/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
An empty Fenway Park. (Karen Testa/AP)

Boston-area institutions are teaming up to bring to the city what is being billed as a "first-of-its-kind" event for the fall of 2015 that will attempt to showcase the strengths of the region and bring together thought leaders, researchers and the public to tackle problems.

Like South by Southwest meets the World Economic Forum, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are partnering with Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Globe to organize what they are calling "HUBweek."

Partnership organizers, who hope to attract other participants, plan to put on a week-long series of events that will feature lectures and conferences, competitions and cultural exhibitions.

"It's a week-long series of events bringing together leading thinkers and doers from an array of backgrounds, and through events and competitions, hands-on demonstrations and conferences, those people will engage with each other and the community to develop solutions to big problems," said Brendan Ryan, who has been hired as the executive director of the event.

Ryan, a former top adviser to Gov. Deval Patrick who most recently left his post as chief of staff to work on the governor's political action committee, said the goal is to make it an annual event attracting as many participants as possible.

"It's a week-long series of events bringing together leading thinkers and doers from an array of backgrounds ... those people will engage with each other and the community to develop solutions to big problems."

Brendan Ryan

"It's a signature civic moment to show us at our best and put all of our skills to use," Ryan said.

Leaders from all four institutions plan to announce their vision for HUBweek Friday at an invitation-only press conference at the Ragon Institute in Cambridge. The Ragon Institute is another partnership between Harvard, MIT and MGH funded with a $100 million gift to research new ways of preventing and curing human disease.

John and Linda Henry, publisher and managing director of the Boston Globe, will attend the 10:45 a.m. press conference along with Ryan, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, MGH President Dr. Peter Slavin and MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

One of the event's envisions is a "Master Class" at Fenway Park that will bring in professors, experts and citizens to teach a class or give a presentation to the general public in what organizers hope will be the largest "classroom" the region has ever seen.

Each institutional partner is also planning their own events. While some are still in development, MIT has already organized itself around four areas for research and problem-solving exercises.

Anant Agarwal, the CEO of the free online college course collaboration EdX, will focus on access to education and digital learning. Agarwal is an MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science. A second group, led by MIT professor Phillip Sharp, will explore the affordability of health care and advanced diagnostics.

Angela Belcher, an MIT energy and biological engineering professor, will focus her "challenge" around environmental sustainability, food and water security and renewable energy. And Rodney Brooks, founder and chairman of Rethink Robotics, will explore manufacturing and global infrastructure.

According to organizers, the idea for HUBweek has been percolating in the business and venture capital communities for quite a while and has been in active development for the past 10 months to a year.

"It comes out of an idea that there are a lot of big problems being solved in Boston, academic problems research problems, business problems. Our start-up environment is booming. So is technology and life science. The creative economy is going well. It seems like the time is right for something that brings it all together," Ryan said.

Some of the events in the series next fall will be organized jointly, while others will be handled individually by the partners.

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