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Silicon Valley Think Tank Assists Smart City Initiative in Columbus, Ohio

The Smart City Accelerator "will drive the next wave of innovation," with the ultimate goal of creating better functioning cities that transform how residents and communities work and live.

(TNS) -- Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank and business incubator, announced Monday it is sponsoring a Smart City Accelerator in Columbus.

The accelerator would be the first program of its kind and is in response to Columbus winning the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge.

The accelerator will help the businesses involved in the program by providing access to Singularity University faculty, and by identifying mentors from large companies and startups who will provide expertise on industry and technology.

Other sponsors will facilitate web services, legal support, financial services and tax planning for the chosen businesses.

After Columbus won the Smart City Challenge, Singularity University wanted to be part of the local entrepreneurial environment, said Nick Davis, Singularity University vice president of corporate innovation, in a statement. The Smart City Accelerator "will drive the next wave of innovation," with the ultimate goal of creating better functioning cities that transform how residents and communities work and live.

Last June, Columbus bested six other finalists in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City competition to receive $50 million in grants from the federal government and Vulcan Inc. to develop the city into the nation's proving ground for intelligent transportation systems. The city also lined up about $90 million in local matching commitments, including $19 million in public money, giving Columbus a total of $140 million to upgrade its transportation network.

Singularity's Smart Cities Accelerator will choose 10 businesses focused on such things as mobility; connectivity; data and analytics; infrastructure and energy; and manufacturing and production.

Each selected business will be eligible to receive up to $100,000 in funding from Columbus-based venture capital firm NCT Ventures.

"The (Singularity) Smart City Accelerator will attract innovators from around the world and amplify the successes Columbus already has achieved in becoming recognized as a global center of technology and innovation," said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther in a statement. "I view the ... Smart Cities Accelerator as a mutually supportive partner and participant of Smart Columbus, and I look forward to working with Singularity University on this transformative initiative."

The program will be a "world-class accelerator," said Alex Fischer, president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, which represents the region's business leadership and is leading the Smart Columbus effort alongside the city of Columbus. By giving the entrepreneurs who participate in the program "full access to our community as a living laboratory ... we can learn together what business models and technologies are going to make our cities better in the future for all people," Fischer said.

Singularity University was co-founded in 2008 by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil and Peter H. Diamandis, the entrepreneur best known for being the founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation, the non-profit that encourage technological development to benefit mankind.

The benefits of the Smart City Accelerator program are expected to be so strong that American Electric Power is already planning to send a team through it, said AEP CEO Nick Akins.

"Bringing the Singularity University Smart City Accelerator to Columbus is a catalyst for innovation and technology in Columbus," Akins said in a statement. "The vision of Smart Columbus is for this community to be a center of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the Smart City Accelerator represents a significant step toward the realization of that vision."

©2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.