- Four cross-jurisdictional teams took home the top cash prizes in the first Smart Infrastructure Challenge, hosted by smart city and technology strategy firm Venture Smarter.
- At an awards luncheon to wrap up the Smart Regions Conference in Columbus, OH, the honorees in each of the four tracks were: Hampton Roads Regional Connectivity Ring (Smart and Connected Development track); Safer and Smarter Arizona Roadways Initiative (Smarter, Safer Streets track); Greater Cincinnati Regional Smart Transportation (Next-Generation Infrastructure track); and the Lake Erie, PA-based Team Smart Lake (Critical Infrastructure track).
- Of the 80 project proposals from across the country, Venture Smarter CEO Zack Huhn said the investors and sponsors should be able to fund between 75 and 80% of all projects, so many might still get a cash injection. "The work has just started," he said at the awards ceremony.
When the challenge was announced earlier this year, Huhn said, "Smart solutions must be implemented to help agencies optimize or altogether replace outdated systems, and to also cut costs, generate new revenue, or create enhanced value for constituents."
And the regional teams appear to have embraced that charge, with Huhn noting during the awards luncheon the 80 total project proposals received is one more than to the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Smart City Challenge.
The funding for these projects, which could reach up to $10 million apiece, could mean a major spark for initiatives that may otherwise struggle to get off the ground for lack of public funding, as municipalities find their budgets under pressure. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last year his $200 million American Cities Initiative to "empower cities" and "advance policy" to generate innovation, while a similar contest in Georgia has a substantial cash prize for its winners, too.
And it is significant that the majority of projects pitched at the Smart Regions Conference could get at least a portion of funding from the investment firms and other sponsors. Smart City Capital CEO Oscar Bode said in a statement that as much as $3 billion is set aside for the right projects in the future, a figure that represents a real boost for competitors and underscores the level of competition.
In separate remarks, Matthew Bailey, smart cities global practice leader at Arrow Electronics, emphasized the need for regional collaboration, and said that all the projects that were proposed offer a strong roadmap for the future.
"This is an ongoing conversation with the investors, but what you're building are solutions that will create an opportunity for the next generation to have a chance to thrive in society," Bailey said.