Smart City challenge calls for startups working towards social impact

NEW DELHI: A new Smart City challenge has been launched in India which encourages young entrepreneurs to identify local problems and develop innovative solutions which have a lasting social impact and are also successful businesses. 

Smart City 4.0, recently launched by the Innovation Acceleration Group at the University of California Berkeley, US, seeks to develop skills for industry, mentor innovators, accelerate technologies and create fundable startups that work towards developing smart cities in India. 

As a part of the ongoing initiative, India's Smart City Co-Innovation Lab will be established in Allahabad, a city that has been identified by the government under its 100 smart cities mission. 

"The challenge is that there is so much new technology coming that can have an impact," said Innovation Acceleration Group executive director Andre Marquis. 

But people often think of technology first and then try to look at how it will solve problems, he said. 

"At UC Berkeley we look at it differently - you have to get in touch with the customer. We teach people to get out of the building, understand the customer's problems and build a viable business model that could help solve those problems - and then go build it," Marquis told PTI. 

Launched in collaboration with the United States India Strategic Partnership Forum and 1M1B, a non-profit body, Smart City 4.0 aims at developing the skills of young innovators, startups and large corporations for solutions that make cities "smart, safe and sustainable". 

The lab will enable large, mid-sized companies and startups to work with citizens and create sustainable solutions together. 

The programme will invite young people between the ages of 18 and 29 to co-create smart city solutions after understanding issues that affect the people of a city. 

The areas of focus will be artificial intelligence, water, energy, transportation, waste management, healthcare, climate and smart agriculture. 

The programme will run on two tracks -- one for students and the other for startups. The top 20 ideas will enter the Smart City Co-Innovation Lab and will be mentored by industry experts. 

The final two teams in the students' category will present their innovations at the Global Social Venture Competition in Milan, Italy, in April 2018, and compete for the top prizes worth USD 80,000 (about Rs 52 lakh). 

The top five teams in the startup group will present their ideas to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in October 2018, and work with different government departments to implement their smart city solutions. 

"In a year, we are looking at about 15-20 startups to be produced from one lab," said Manav Subodh, director, International Development, Innovation Acceleration Group. 

"The initiative is designed to create 'Make in India', with local solutions to local problems, and at a larger level, to develop skills among young innovators of India to gear up for the fourth industrial revolution," he said. 

The Allahabad Innovation Lab is scheduled to start on January 9, 2018. In the meantime, teams will be shortlisted for the challenge, the organisers said. 

UC Berkeley hopes to establish ten more labs across India and is looking for partners to take .. 


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