- As part of a citywide strategy to boost the role of technology in government, the City of Philadelphia has launched a "Pitch & Pilot" initiative to engage private tech companies in solving urban problems.
- The first round of solicitations in the initiative seeks tech solutions to track waste generation, encourage reduced consumption of disposable materials and promote diversion from landfills and incinerators. A winning firm will be awarded up to $34,000 for a limited deployment of its solutions and for a technical evaluation of its effectiveness and financial sustainability. Winners will be based on a number of qualifications including equity, scalability and attention to data security.
- The initiative is led by the city’s Office of Innovation and Technology. Future "Pitch & Pilot" initiatives will tackle a variety of problems that could benefit from tech solutions, and could see a larger prize amount.
Philadelphia’s SmartCityPHL initiative emphasizes community engagement and the use of technology to solve problems raised by residents and businesses, rather than a top-down approach. That is also the guiding principle of the city’s IT Strategic Plan, released in October, which first detailed the "Pitch and Pilot" proposal.
In a press briefing, Philadelphia Smart Cities Director Emily Yates said the initiative would "create an environment in which the government can collaborate with the private sector." The program is available to companies large and small, and startups owned by minorities, women or other disadvantaged populations are especially encouraged to apply. The idea, city officials told reporters, is to create a pipeline for businesses to offer solutions to the government, and for the government to seek out help from the tech community.
The initiative helps to advance Philadelphia's goal to reach "zero waste," or to nearly eliminate diversion to landfills and conventional incinerators by 2035, which can be done by improving recycling and reducing waste generation. Litter and waste are top issues that Philadelphians bring up to the government; the city has responded with new trash cans and a ban on plastic bags, among other initiatives.
The city touts this effort as one that can also help it move toward "a more sustainable, clean, and beautiful future," which is a goal that was highlighted last week when Mayor Jim Kenney signed two pieces of environmental legislation into law to cut carbon emissions and align with the Paris climate agreement. That legislation also centers on support from stakeholders like the business community and building owners, further highlighting the importance of cross-sector collaboration.
Other cities have issued challenges similar to "Pitch & Pilot," like hackathons using city-collected data or moonshot challenges, which intend to improve quality of life while boosting the business environment.