The new Smart Futures Lab offers resources to companies thanks to a $2 million grant from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA)
, which will support workforce development in critical tech industries and is expected to create more than 200 jobs. The Smart Futures Lab is open to the business community. Businesses led by a New Majority, which includes Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Women and People with Disabilities that are currently underrepresented in the technology industry, are encouraged to apply.
The new business accelerator and incubator programs will be housed in the College of Engineering, Design and Computing (CEDC) and begin in March 2023. Dan Griner, the director of Design, Innovation and Strategy in CEDC is leading the Smart Futures Lab.
“We are proud to offer a program that creates inroads for groups that are currently underrepresented in smart city technology businesses and provide a more comprehensive approach that will include end to end support from personal growth and company culture to business strategy and working with government,” Griner said.
Virtual information sessions
are being held on December 14 and December 16, and applications will remain open
until January 20. Beginning in spring 2023, a new series of smart cities badges will also be available to students and professionals looking to advance their career in the smart cities industry. Participants who complete ten badges will earn a smart cities certificate.
Participating businesses will have access to world-class learning opportunities from smart cities thought leaders, access to a true 5G network for research and development and an ecosystem of partners to help them succeed.
“Through our new Smart Futures Lab, CU Denver will empower emerging tech company founders with big ideas in the smart cities space to realize their dreams. Through the EDA’s investment, we are giving founders access to the training, technologies and networks that can catalyze their innovation.” said Anthony E. Graves, CU Denver’s Managing Director of Partnerships, and Innovation.
Supporting Access to the Tech Industry for Underrepresented Communities
Aimara Rodriguez, a first-generation Latina working in technology product and partnership development, is one of the Smart Futures Lab Advisory Council members. She is the Chapter Co-Lead for Latinas in Tech – Denver who has seen the impact of technology and products being designed for our communities without the decision-makers in those rooms coming from the backgrounds.
“I, alongside the Latinas In Tech – Denver chapter, am beyond thrilled to be supporting this initiative and helping to identify, support, and grow emerging technical talent stemming from BIPOC and under-served communities through this accelerator,” Rodriguez said. “These communities are quickly becoming the New Majority in the U.S. and it’s important that the future of how our cities operate is being designed by diverse minds and individuals that understand the technological benefits that smart cities can have for our own communities.”
Tyler Svitak, Executive Director of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, emphasized the importance of maximizing this investment for underserved communities.
“From artificial intelligence that improves traffic flow to sensors that monitor local environmental quality, smart cities are using today’s technology to build tomorrow’s infrastructure,” said Svitak. “Most importantly, these programs will prioritize access to communities underrepresented in the technology industry, including BIPOC, women and people with disabilities. With a once-in-a-generation investment in new infrastructure, there is no better time to ensure the people most impacted by the inequities of today’s cities are building the cities of tomorrow.”
Mike Hess, CEO of the Blind Institute of Technology said he believes the program holds promise. He too serves on the Smart Futures Lab Advisory Council. “Technology has always been at the forefront of discussion in the disability community,” Hess said. “It has advanced to do tremendous things to serve these communities, such as the advent of text to speech software, beacons that connect with smartphones to assist people who are blind or visually impaired with navigating indoor and outdoor spaces, and so much more. We here at Blind Institute of Technology (BIT) are ecstatic to be involved with this initiative and work together to continue our fight in closing the unemployment gap in the blind community.”
CU Denver, Smart Cities Alliance and Innosphere Ventures expect outcomes from this initiative will have a positive ripple effect across the state, including the growth of technology jobs and the development of solutions to key quality of life issues, like transportation, energy, and water.