Smart City

Smart City Sentinel

Two Organizations Join Forces to Create Innovation Communities Focused on Urban Mobility

By Matthew Vulpis

As predicted by the United Nations, more than half of the world’s population currently live in urban areas, and around 70 percent will be concentrated in the cities by the year 2050. This anticipated urbanization of the world poses significant challenges related to environmental, economic, and social sustainability. For this reason, smart cities, the leading paradigm of urbanism today, are seen as the most important arena for sustainability transitions in an increasingly urbanized world.

A smart city uses information and communication technology (ICT) to improve operational efficiency, share information with the public and provide a better quality of government service and citizen welfare. The main goal is to optimize city functions and promote economic growth while also improving the quality of life for citizens by using smart technologies and data analysis.

There are already 174 smart cities worldwide, but only 12 within the United States. The global smart cities market size is currently USD 410.8 billion, but it’s expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14.8 percent, reaching USD 820.7 billion by 2025.

However, creating a smart city involves using a myriad of new technologies, meaning for some cities, the cost of implementation is just too much, even knowing the benefits. For these cities, aid comes in the form of incubators and venture studios, organizations that can help cities transform into smart ones.

Incubators are designed to accelerate the growth and success of young entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services. This can include access to physical space, capital, mentorship/coaching, and networking opportunities. These incubators, such as Plug and Play Tech Center, aid smart city startups by helping them gain exposure, become more productive or make connections.

Venture Studios, on the other hand, are companies that work to build several different companies in rapid succession. They develop the idea behind a company while simultaneously investing capital. In the smart city realm, these venture studios work with enterprises and government organizations to improve the lifecycle management of critical infrastructure and the built environment.

With smart city growth on the rise, both venture studios and the cities themselves have begun reaching out, creating partnerships for the sake of creating sustainable economic and societal value by optimizing the relationships and interactions of people, things, spaces, data, and the environment.

Recently, Smart City Works Venture Studio (SCWVS) announced that Urban Movement Labs (UML) will be joining as an Agency Member of the Smart City Works Venture Studio to further efforts regarding transportation technology innovation. The Smart City Works Venture Studio helps build startups for the cyber-physical infrastructure world by providing a team of experienced entrepreneurs who have substantial experience in IoT and infrastructure, product development, business planning, customer acquisition, finance, and venture capital, as well as industry-specific expertise in smart cities, construction, smart buildings, mobility, energy, and the environment.

The studio itself is a joint initiative between Smart City Works Venture Labs, a next-generation business accelerator focused on urban infrastructure, and Rocket Wagon Venture Studios, the parent organization that provides the architectural cyber-physical framework including considerations regarding devices, security, privacy, data governance, and ownership, communications, and a broad range of analytics, as well as shared legal and financial services, underlying operational systems, and corporate relationships.

“We are doing all we can to embrace and leverage meaningful innovation for urban mobility,” said Sam Morrissey, Executive Director of Urban Movement Labs. “The partnership with Smart City Works Venture Studio will allow us to have access to emerging urban infrastructure innovation companies and to meaningful academic and industry research for proven methods and best practices for translating such innovation into scalable and repeatable solutions. Linking critical innovation to substantive execution is a crucial part of the equation, and we see Smart City Works Venture Studio as helping make that happen.”

SCWVS’s offering includes identifying key trends and opportunities in infrastructure where technology and associated innovative processes can make a difference in how infrastructure is developed, deployed, and maintained in terms of quality, accessibility, equity, cost, and sustainability.

On the other end of this partnership, Urban Movement Labs (UML) is a Los Angeles based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides a third space for collaboration, which prioritizes a community-first approach for local agencies, communities, and companies, to co-create and co-implement mobility technology solutions. They are already partnered with various private organizations, such as Moceanlab, Lyft, Avis Budget Group, Waymo, and Verizon. They also are partnered with the Office of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the L.A. Cleantech Incubator (LACI), representing the largest transportation and goods movement agencies in the City of Los Angeles.

UML’s aim is to match solutions to daily transportation challenges, then test them in real urban conditions within L.A.’s city limits in a way that provides community members with a sense of ownership via pilots that include community input and feedback.

With this partnership, SCWVS can play a direct role in the transformation of Los Angeles into a smart city by playing the usual role of a venture studio, as well as aiding some of UML’s projects that are already underway. For example, moving forward, SCWVS and UML can work in tandem on the Workforce Development Initiative, which is a UML project that is accelerating the transportation workforce of the future in industries already clustering in the LA region.

Overall, with this partnership, SCWVS can do what venture studios do best and help improve not only the infrastructure and technology in L.A. but the daily lives of the nearly 4 million citizens that populate the California city. And for UML, they get the support necessary to finally make smart Los Angeles a reality, with many other cities in the U.S. most likely following in their footsteps and finding a venture studio to help obtain the benefits of a smart city.

“As we pull the levers of innovation for infrastructure, we know that these are the opportunities to make a real difference for the key players in the industry. We also recognize that assembling a membership of public agencies, corporations, and public-private partnerships can reveal a holistic assessment of where we are today and where the industry needs to move in the future, connecting that to the innovation we are supporting in the Studio. Having Urban Movement Labs as a part of this group adds a compelling voice for urban mobility to the benefit of all members,” said Tim McManus, Chair of the Smart City Works Venture Studio Board of Advisors and former McKinsey VP of Capital Projects. “Adding to that, the input from the Columbia University Global Leaders in Construction Management Program underscores the need for ongoing learning and adaptation we all must continually pursue.”

Edited by Luke Bellos
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