Over the past four months, the meetings and events industry has been rocked by the COVID-19 outbreak. During this period of travel restrictions and social distancing, conferences were canceled or planners scrambled to transform their face-to-face meetings into virtual events. One destination that was thrust into the center of this crisis was Cambridge, Massachusetts, an ever-evolving biotech and innovation hub and home to experts dedicated to finding a solution to the pandemic.
“Cambridge isn’t only about history and universities,” Robyn Culbertson, executive director of the Cambridge Office for Tourism, told PCMA. “While that is a large part of Cambridge’s DNA, it is equally about shaping the future by being on the front lines of biotech, technology, life sciences, and pharmaceuticals. Cambridge is a leader in cutting-edge innovation that has global implications.”
The city — located just across the Charles River and less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Boston — is home to Moderna, Inc., a biotechnology company that started working on its COVID-19 vaccine in January. By late February, Moderna’s scientists had delivered the first batch of candidate vaccines to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. That vaccine and others are undergoing phased testing.
Moderna’s headquarters is in Cambridge’s famed Kendall Square, a well-known innovation hub adjacent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and only a few minutes from a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority train stop. Housing an easily walkable cluster of labs, research centers, and corporate offices, Kendall Square has been referred to as “the most innovative square mile on earth.” There, event planners have access to a wealth of experts in industries like science, tech, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and education. Plus, the area has been revitalized through the Kendall Square Initiative, adding six new buildings that offer 1.8 million square feet of space, including offices, retail, housing, and event venues.
The Cambridge Innovation Center, which provides coworking space for potential off-site meetings and brainstorming sessions, also is located in Kendall Square. Event organizers will find a network of local entrepreneurs willing to work with them at the center.
If attendees have just a few hours to experience Cambridge innovation, they can sign up for the “Innovations of Cambridge” tour by Cambridge Historical Tours, the “Kendall Square Food and Innovation” tour through Off the Beaten Path Food Tours, and campus tours of MIT and Harvard led by Trademark Tours. These tours give delegates a chance to visit the sites and hear the stories of some of the city’s (and world’s) most incredible inventions — from the biomechatronic foot to beloved video games like Guitar Hero.
Another tour, the Charles Riverboat Company’s narrated Charles River Sightseeing Tour, gives participants a sense of the compact area into which all of this research, development, and history-making technology is packed.
Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, planners will be able to tap into all of these resources and more when hosting an event in Cambridge, offering their attendees a first-hand look at what could become history in the making. They also can host their events in state-of-the-art meeting spaces at nearby hotels, such as Boston Marriott Cambridge, located right beside the Kendall Square transit stop, or the equally convenient Royal Sonesta Hotel along the Charles River overlooking Boston’s skyline. Le Meridien and Hyatt Regency Cambridge are both in close proximity to Kendall, Central, and Harvard Squares.
As the pandemic changes how people live and work, the innovative centers in Cambridge continue to seek solutions to complex problems, positioning the city on the forefront of medicine, science, technology, and innovation.