Biogen Idec’s STEM Giving Gets DIY

Earlier this year, Cambridge-based biotechnology company Biogen Idec showed how big it could take its local STEM education giving with a $2.5 million grant to Boston’s Museum of Science. Now they’re taking things to a smaller, community level by funding a local makerspace for teens.  

The Biogen Idec Foundation just announced a $500,000 grant to the afterschool program The Possible Project to support an 1800-square-foot center devoted to science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) for teens. The term “makerspace” refers to increasingly popular shared spaces for independent art and manufacturing projects. The new space in Kendall Square in Cambridge will feature the kind of equipment you often see at such centers, like 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters and design software. 

While they are often described as cooperative community centers serving hobbyists or small business owners, such makerspaces have caught the attention of the STEM education movement and funders, given the way they add a creative flourish and DIY aesthetic to science while removing some of the stodginess often associated with STEM fields. Similarly, the “STEAM” movement of highlighting the creativity in science has been gaining momentum. One notable such center would be the Maker Space in the New York Hall of Science, funded in part by the IT company Cognizant. The company’s entire STEM funding program is built around the maker movement. 

Biogen Idec is a Cambridge-based biotech company that has seen some impressive profits in recent years, thanks to leading treatments for Multiple Sclerosis. With that growth, its foundation’s giving has stepped up, notably with a combined $3.5 million in recent grants to the museum in Boston. And while they’ve been making an impression with 7-figure grants lately, the company’s foundation also likes to back smaller, informal education programs, as demonstrated by this latest gift. 

The Possible Project is kind of a quirky youth nonprofit that specializes in teaching teens how to start and run a business. The new makerspace will add a deeper science and tech element to the mission. The space also involves a partnership with the Cambridge Housing Authority, the affordable housing department of the city.  

Read more about the foundation’s science education grantmaking in our IP profiles below.

Biogen Idec Foundation: Grants for Science Education

Kara DiGiacomo, Biogen Idec Foundation