Municipal leaders, academic presenters, as well as chief technology, information and analytics officers from across the country gathered at NJIT’s Wellness and Events Center Oct. 15 and 16 for the MetroLab Network 2018 Annual Summit. The conference centered on leveraging city-university partnerships to deliver technology, data and analytics to local government and drive civic innovation.
The MetroLab Network was launched in 2015 as part of the White House’s Smart Cities Initiative to “pair university researchers with city policymakers to undertake research, development and deployment projects that improve our infrastructure, public services and environmental sustainability.” Its membership has grown to include 44 cities, 5 counties and 59 universities nationwide, which make up 40+ partnerships (NJIT and the City of Newark are one such partnership). Today more than 100 research and development projects are in progress through the network.
“We were founded by industry and business people in Newark, and helping the workforce always has been part of our mission,” said NJIT President Joel S. Bloom at the summit. “As a tech university, we have an abundance of resources to share. We also are very engaged in economic development here in the city and beyond.”
NJIT has a $1.74 billion annual economic impact on the State of New Jersey. The university houses both the Enterprise Development Center, New Jersey’s largest high-tech and life-science incubator, as well as the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), an NJIT corporation that provides a variety of product and process-innovation services to a range of business sectors, from health care delivery and civil infrastructure to financial and defense and homeland security.
The MetroLab Network summit featured panel discussions, breakout sessions and remarks from government officials, including Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and New Jersey State Chief Innovation officer Beth Noveck, who delivered the keynote address. Attendees also were invited to take a walking tour of Newark and enjoy a reception at the Newark Museum.
“I see MetroLab as the future of being able to communicate the vital role that higher education plays in civic innovation,” Dr. Bloom added. “This conference is very important toward that end.”
Ben Levine, MetroLab Network executive director, expressed his gratitude to all the communities committed to the cause: cities and counties partnering with higher education to enhance life for their citizens.