NYC Lab Calls on Startups to Help Reach Sustainability Goals

The Circular City program, a project by New Lab and the NYC Economic Development Corporation, has issued an open call for startups to use technology to address the city’s sustainability goals.

by / January 15, 2020
The Circular City program, a project by New Lab and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, has issued an “open call” for startups who believe they may have a technology to address the city’s sustainability goals (Shutterstock)

A group in New York City has challenged startups to make buildings there more energy efficient while also reducing waste.

This group is New Lab, which is a tech hub located in Brooklyn, and it is working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to launch Circular City, an open call for startups to use technology to address the city’s sustainability goals. The hope is that this will result in tangible outcomes that can be used to foster energy efficiency in buildings and to help New York City become a circular economy, which is a model that aims to reduce waste. 

Shaina Horowitz, vice president of product and programs at New Lab, said this could involve keeping goods in use or circulation to reduce waste, and stakeholders involved with this effort will spend at least the next six weeks connecting with startups in the service of this. Startups will be asked to submit applications, which New Lab and NYCEDC will review, Horowitz said. At that point, subject matter experts and others will help select which projects move forward.

“They’ll make sure that we’re looking at a team that can get a project into a pilot phase quite quickly,” Horowitz said.

The initiative has been praised by policymakers who say the public-private partnerships aimed at reining in energy consumption and making New York more sustainable — in the face of a growing climate crisis — “is a win for everyone involved,” said New York City Council Member Robert Holden, who chairs the New York City Council’s Committee on Technology.

“For instance, the proliferation of Uber, Lyft and other for-hire vehicle services has vastly increased the amount of congestion and pollution on New York City streets, and often times these cars are driving aimlessly while searching for their next client,” Holden wrote in an email to Government Technology. “If we, as a government and tech companies, can work together to figure out how to use technology to minimize these vehicles’ footprints, that would go a long way toward improving sustainability.”

With this in mind, a focus of Circular City will be on exposing the city to technology that will have a relatively immediate impact on increasing energy efficiency in buildings, as well as thinking about waste reduction overall.

“It’s a balance between being highly ambitious in the kind of impact that we want to see, and then also being extremely practical,” Horowitz said. “So, knowing that in the course of this spring and summer we want to help startups actually deploy their technology at different pilot sites across New York City.”

This work is a few years in the making. NYCEDC and New Lab first formed the Urban Tech Hub in 2017, with Circular City emerging as a key part of the vision of that partnership.

“New Lab’s unique model for bringing together frontier tech startups, local government stakeholders, academic institutions, and private sector investors is a powerful platform for addressing critical real-world urban challenges,” said New Lab CEO Shaun Stewart, in a statement. “The 2020 edition of Circular City will build on the success of our initial program, exploring new solutions for meeting New York City’s broader sustainability goals.”

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Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.

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