- Three startups won cash prizes in New York University’s Urban Future Competition, held recently by the Tandon School of Engineering. The startups — van-sharing company Dollaride; construction technology firm Avvir; and energy efficiency company simuwatt — each won $50,000 and office space.
- The competition required applicants to develop ideas promoting urban sustainability, combating climate change and protecting the environment, and pitch those ideas to a jury of potential investors.
- Competition finalists came from various industries, including construction, ridesharing, grid infrastructure, agriculture, building automation, artificial intelligence, machine vision, blockchain, electric vehicle (EV) and autonomous vehicle (AV) technologies. Submissions were received from applicants in more than 20 countries.
This competition represents a collaboration between an academic institution, private companies and newer startups, all with one eye on helping New York hit ambitious energy targets set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It also emphasizes the need for everyone to pull in the same direction to solve the problems cities face. "New York’s march toward meeting Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading energy goals will require innovation, creativity, and collaboration between the public and private sectors," Alicia Barton, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said in a statement.
Similar competitions are sprouting up across the country, including the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2018 US Mayors Challenge and the nationwide Smart Infrastructure Challenge, which are aimed at governments at various levels but require engaging with the private sector.
Each of the three companies that won are newly establishing themselves, and will benefit from the cash infusion and office space to refine their solutions and grow. Dollaride provides a private ride-sharing network of “dollar vans” for those who lack public transit options; Avvir uses machine-learning to provide automated construction verification and progress monitoring; while simuwatt helps building owners, experts and utilities to find energy efficiency investments through standardized data acquisition, modeling and analytics.
Issues around public transportation, construction monitoring and energy efficiency are major ones cities face, so encouraging more companies to help out with capital and room to grow will benefit cities in the long-term. "Realizing energy-saving innovations is impossible without cooperation between public and private entities," Arturo Garcia-Costas, environmental program officer at The New York Community Trust, said in a statement. "These awards provide a much-needed boost for companies meeting intractable problems head on."