Genius Bar: How our collaboration with MIT creates a better future for real estate

Few things bring me greater joy than “geeking out” over at MIT with our friends at the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab. For an industry that’s stayed much the same for hundreds of years, it’s exciting to see the changes that are on the horizon for commercial real estate and to be a part of the movement.

Spending time in the lab—where basic research and invention create an innovation trigger—is a critical and fun part of the process. In the lab, experimentation and even failure is all part of the process and the path to breakthroughs. But transforming theory into reality is where the real work begins and where it will truly pay off for all of us in the real estate sector.

Innovation and disruption are cutting across the whole landscape of business. What’s interesting is that people tend to fear disruption and yet welcome innovation. I look at them as almost the same thing.

We’re at the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the fusing of biological, physical and digital worlds. This is the awakening moment in many industries, including commercial real estate, which tend to lag.

The big change is that technology has shifted from niche to ubiquitous. That shift has created a mandate for continuous innovation. We’re leaning in and embracing the opportunity to be at the forefront of positive change. We’re preparing for the future across our businesses and looking at new model to provide better service and value to our clients.

How do we do that? We’re collaborating with MIT to understand what’s changing, and to challenge the thinking of the industry. Exciting projects at the lab include:

The Real Estate Innovation Hype Cycle, which will track and analyze innovative products, technologies and processes in our sector. This will help our clients create a road map and timeline for action and adoption.

The lab will explore innovations in building design that lead to new building types and urban forms. That includes new processes in construction and design, such as 3-D printing, modular construction and robotic buildings with the potential to transform cities and the built environment.

The lab’s flagship project has created a comprehensive “wide data” real estate database for New York. The database will go beyond real estate basics like property info and rents, offering a new real-world data model for advanced analytics and valuations in a city.

Along with our own JLL research, the lab will release data and insights exploring how real estate can spark and accelerate innovation. This will link to DesignX, a new entrepreneurship accelerator in the School of Architecture and Planning that provides training, tools and resources to student teams building the CRE companies of the future.

I’ve always had a fascination with the built environment and how we live, work and play within it. We used to think of all of these things as separate concepts, but they’re coming together in new and exciting ways. We see our relationship with MIT as a way to augment on the job activities across our businesses and bring additional insights to our clients so they can better prepare for the future.

So where is real estate going? What’s the next frontier for commercial real estate? It’ll be a wild ride over the next decade, and we’re excited to take you along with us.

Ben Breslau is an International Director and Head of Research for JLL Americas. He can be reached at To subscribe to JLL research from your market, sector or industry, click here.