As Portland’s Roux Institute welcomed its first students last summer, the coronavirus pandemic was exposing the tenuousness of a local economy heavily reliant on hospitality and retail. But the institute — a graduate-studies and research center focused on artificial intelligence, life sciences, computer and data sciences, and digital engineering — aims to push Portland in a new, high-tech direction. Lewiston-raised tech investor David Roux and his wife, Barbara, donated $100 million to Boston-based Northeastern University to seed the institute, and the Harold Alfond Foundation has since given another $100 million in support. The New York Times called the fledgling project “a template for the many American cities struggling to share in the nation’s prosperity.”

Now, the Roux Institute has moved into an Old Port campus it shares with WEX, the financial-tech firm, and started partnering on research and student work experiences with companies ranging from small startups to L.L.Bean. We talked with chief administrative officer Chris Mallett about how the institute could shape Portland’s prospects of becoming a mini–Silicon Valley. Read more