Providence leads as global CIC network reports record growth

STACEY MESSIER, general manager of the Providence CIC. The city leads the Cambridge Innovation Center's global network as it reports record growth across all locations. / PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY

PROVIDENCE – In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, with most in-person work prohibited, Cambridge Innovation Center leaders had some concerns about what future occupancy would look like across its global network of “innovation campuses.”

Even now, with lockdown measures long-since lifted, shifting values toward remote work on the surface seem like they would discourage businesses from reserving a place in the CIC buildings, said CEO and founder Tim Rowe.

Instead, Rowe said, the organization has surpassed pre-pandemic occupancy levels and on Tuesday announced record-breaking growth in inquiries and sales at all of its nine campuses.

Out of that network, which started in Cambridge 23 years ago and now has locations in the U.S., Europe and Japan, CIC Providence stands out from the rest, Rowe said, with the location continuing to demonstrate the fastest growth compared to pre-pandemic levels.

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Currently, the CIC Providence building is 77% occupied, with 180 business clients and more than 600 individuals working in the building. That’s up from about 145 startups and 500 individuals in the summer, which was already double the building’s pre-pandemic occupancy. 

As employee expectations around remote and hybrid work evolved, Rowe believes that the CIC has continued to attract clients as a result of businesses looking for something different than a traditional office environment to entice them back to in-person work. Under its innovation campus model, the CIC offers shared workspaces, labs and event areas, with a goal of increasing collaboration between companies and expanding programming opportunities.

Companies are realizing the extent that their future is less certain from a real estate perspective,” Rowe said. “They would rather be in a dynamic place with a lot of things going on, (with) attractions for their employees coming into work — something that offers more value than an office.” 

Ultimately, Rowe said, the network retained more than half of its clients from the height of the pandemic, and was 10% above pre-pandemic revenue levels at the end of 2022.

Most of the CIC’s businesses continue to include remote work in their model, with around 70% on a hybrid schedule, Rowe said. But many seem to see value in spending at least part of the week in a collaborative environment.

Stacey Messier, general manager of the CIC Providence, said that Rhode Island clients seem to have a particularly strong desire to collaborate with other entrepreneurs.

“Even though it’s a small-state mentality, there is absolutely a desire to see feedback in the community,” Messier said.  

The 225 Dyer St. location also stands out for its cluster of offshore wind companies, Rowe and Messier said, with 29 of these businesses currently within the Providence CIC and a 30th soon expected to join.

Since opening in 2019, the Providence location has attracted a sizable group of startups in the blue economy sector as a whole, as well as in the life sciences, they added.

Across the CIC’s global network, clients gained $1.5 billion in venture capital in 2022.

The organization also expanded internationally during the pandemic, with new locations in Warsaw and Tokyo, and plans to continue launching new centers in Europe and Asia this year and 2023.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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