Where Futures Converge
Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub
The evolution of the most innovative square mile on the planet: the endless cycles of change and reinvention that created today's Kendall Square.
Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been called “the most innovative square mile on the planet.” It's a life science hub, hosting Biogen, Moderna, Pfizer, Takeda, and others. It's a major tech center, with Google, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple all occupying big chunks of pricey office space. Kendall Square also boasts a dense concentration of startups, with leading venture capital firms conveniently located nearby. And of course, MIT is just down the block. In Where Futures Converge, Robert Buderi offers the first detailed account of the unique ecosystem that is Kendall Square, chronicling the endless cycles of change and reinvention that have driven its evolution.
Buderi, who himself has worked in Kendall Square for the past twenty years, tells fascinating stories of great innovators and their innovations that stretch back two centuries. Before biotech and artificial intelligence, there was railroad car innovation, the first long-distance telephone call, the Polaroid camera, MIT's once secret, now famous Radiation Laboratory, and much more. Buderi takes readers on a walking tour of the square and talks to dozens of innovators, entrepreneurs, urban planners, historians, and others. He considers Kendall Square's limitations—it's “gentrification gone rogue,” by one description, with little affordable housing, no pharmacy, and a scarce middle class—and its strengths: the “human collisions” that spur innovation.
What's next for Kendall Square? Buderi speculates about the next big innovative enterprises and outlines lessons for aspiring innovation districts. More important, he asks how Kendall Square can be both an innovation hub and a diversity, equity, and inclusion hub. There's a lot of work still to do.
“A must-read for everyone who cares about understanding, cultivating, and building innovative ecosystems.”
Richard Florida, University of Toronto; author of The Rise of the Creative Class
“A compelling history that describes the people who navigated between impossibility and inevitability to foster the evolution of today's 'most innovative square mile on the planet.'”
Susan Hockfield, President Emerita, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; author of The Age of Living Machines
“Buderi's engaging history brings Kendall Square to life as an ecosystem responding to scientific breakthroughs and social changes through collaboration and adaptation.”
Phillip A. Sharp, Institute Professor, MIT; Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1993
“Robert Buderi describes the evolution of the Kendall Square and MIT startup community with amazing depth and clarity.”
Brad Feld, Foundry partner; Techstars cofounder; MIT '87, '88; coauthor of The Startup Community Way
“A terrific book about Kendall Square and the remarkable companies and people who have made it what it is today.”
Robert Langer, Institute Professor, MIT; National Medal of Science (2006) and National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011)
“A story for our times as we seek to build more regions that can propel and energize growth and impact.”
Fiona Murray, William Porter (1967) Professor of Entrepreneurship, MIT; Founding Faculty, MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program
“A fascinating and insightful account of the tech ecosystem that is Kendall Square for anyone who cares about fostering innovation in our communities.”
Mitchell Kapor, founder, Lotus Development Corporation
“A well-researched, fun-to-read description of the past, present, and future of one of the world's most concentrated and fertile wellspring of innovation.”
Danny Hillis, Co-founder, Applied Invention; Visiting Professor, MIT; author of The Connection Machine
“Buderi provides invaluable insights regarding the intentionality and serendipity of how the most innovative square kilometer in the world came to be.”
Bill Aulet, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship; author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship
“Robert Buderi has written a riveting account of the deliberate decisions and chance encounters that made Kendall Square the innovation hub it is today.”
John Maraganore, Founding CEO of Alnylam
"Where Futures Converge is a biogeography of the area, a compelling history of the place, and a lively portrait of what it is today. He treats the area as an ecosystem, one that's in constant flux...He talks with professors, entrepreneurs, members of the Kendall Square Association, historians, scientists, in trying to understand what makes the place what it is, as well as the challenges it faces: it has some of the highest rent in the country, people can't afford to live there, it's dead in the evenings and on weekends, lowering the opportunity for serendipitous encounters that lead to bigger brainstorms and even more fresh ideas. And he looks towards what's possible in Kendall Square's future, making stronger links between the science and the humanities, and continuing to change the ways the world approaches climate change, medicine, energy, transportation, and tech. It's not only a look the biotech jungle, but a history of some of the most important developments in the last century."
"Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been dubbed 'the most innovative square mile on earth.' Neighbouring the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it is a centre for life-sciences companies, tech firms and start-ups, from Moderna to IBM. One building with a history including the first long-distance telephone call now houses almost 70 biomedical start-ups. Entrepreneur and Kendall Square inhabitant Robert Buderi considers the area's past, present and future by interviewing local notables."
“The book works as a narrative history—well researched and filled to the brim with local voices and anecdotes…Within the pages of his new book, Buderi takes readers on a journey through the timeline, making important milestones. A page-turner.”
Boston Common Magazine