White House Puts Additional $80M Toward Smart Cities, Expands MetroLab Network

The administration's high-tech initiatives keep growing.

by / September 27, 2016

The White House announced Sept. 26 that it is pouring an additional $80 million into technology and smart city projects to go along with last year’s initial investment of $160 million.

The effort involves a cornucopia of new projects and extended initiatives, but the bulk of the funding will be concentrated in just one agency: the National Science Foundation. The NSF will spend $60 million on grants and investments in smart city initiatives in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, including funding specifically for high-risk projects, big data research and health-care technology.

The White House simultaneously announced the expansion of the MetroLab Network, a group of partnerships between local governments, universities and research institutions on smart-city-type efforts. Since its initial founding list of 20 cities, the network has grown to about 40 cities and counties, many of which have more than one academic or research partner. The newest partnerships include:

  • The city of Los Angeles and California State University, Los Angeles
  • Miami-Dade County, the cities of Miami and Miami Beach, the University of Miami, Florida International University and Miami Dade College
  • San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley
  • The University of Pittsburgh, which is joining an existing partnership between Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University

The southern Florida contingent will work together on issues related to climate change, which threaten to impact the region in severe ways in the coming decades, while the Southern California partnership will largely focus on economic work. That will include helping minority and women-owned business to go digital and helping connect university entrepreneurs to civic problems they can solve.

The San Francisco partnership will focus on transportation, while the University of Pittsburgh will bring the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center into the existing partnership in that area.

The White House initiative will also include a renewed effort to help guide cities that want to get “smart.” The National Institute of Standards and Technology will develop a framework for Internet of Things-enabled smart cities, which it plans on publishing in the summer of 2017. The Center for Technology in Government at the University of Albany, State University of New York will publish smart city guidebooks specifically for small and medium-sized cities.

The announcement happened concurrently with the launch of the Better Communities Alliance, which is focused on bringing together local governments to help each other create solutions in energy efficiency, renewable energy and transportation.