- US Ignite, a nonprofit that supports smart cities development, is establishing a new, free platform to help communities access information on federal funding for urban development, along with workshops and technical assistance on taking advantage of federal grants.
- Through the new project, US Ignite will collect information on funding opportunities from federal agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), Economic Development Administration (EDA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and others. The website will also collect best practices and guidance for applications.
- The platform is being supported by a $211,000 investment from the nonprofit John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Upfront funding can be scarce for costly technology projects, like building out connected vehicle infrastructure or expanding public transportation. The federal government's myriad tools offer a solution, whether that's through the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) TIGER program or specialty grants given out by the USDA for rural infrastructure. Columbus, which was awarded a $40 million grant by USDOT's 2016 Smart City Challenge, showed how important federal buy-in can be.
But not every city is in position to take advantage of it. In a statement, US Ignite chief strategy officer Nick Maynard said the platform was especially targeted at "underserved rural or low-income areas," which may not have the bandwidth or experience to apply for or be competitive on federal grants. A one-stop platform collecting information also cuts down on the time cities need to spend searching for grant opportunities to help them with specific upcoming projects.
The project is similar to the recent partnership announced between 100 Resilient Cities and Marketplace.city, which functions essentially as a Yelp for smart cities technology. That site allows cities to see what others have said about technology vendors, and to better connect to private partners that can build out smart cities. As cities across the country successfully build out their own smart cities projects, any assistance they can offer others through platforms like these can help everyone get on the same playing field.