Today, U.S. cities face a variety of service delivery and infrastructure challenges including the growing isolation of senior citizens, a rise in the number of homeless people, worsening traffic congestion, and declining air quality. Cities, especially mid-size or smaller, typically have limited resources for studying and developing solutions for these complex issues, and these limitations have been recently exacerbated by the costs and tax revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these problems present opportunities to work with external partners to develop smart innovations that could broadly benefit many cities.
One such approach is MetroLab Network’s initiative to encourage research collaboration between cities and local universities. MetroLab is a nonprofit innovation promotion organization established in 2015 as part of the White House Smart Cities Initiative. MetroLab works to connect cities, universities, and federal research grants, enabling university researchers to leverage cities as “living labs” to address urban problems with an eye toward developing broadly applicable smart technology solutions. Washington CORE spoke with Ben Levine, Executive Director of the MetroLab Network, to learn about MetroLab’s recent efforts to drive innovative solutions to urban challenges.