Connecting state and local government leaders

Pittsburgh Will Give Civic Startups a Chance to Pilot Projects With City Departments

The city of Pittsburgh is building bridges to its startup community.

The city of Pittsburgh is building bridges to its startup community. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

“It's pretty exciting to be able to open the doors up . . . And to really be asking the question of startups: How can we work together?” says the city’s innovation chief.

Startups with a civic bent will get a chance to pilot their technologies and services for several months this year by working with city departments in Pittsburgh, under an initiative Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration rolled out Wednesday.

Known as PGH Lab, the pilot program will provide a select group of startup companies based in Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County a chance to work with the city in areas such as citizen engagement, municipal operations and improving the environment.

Participants will be chosen through a competitive application process that begins Wednesday and runs through late May.

The city and the selected companies will then collaborate between June and and September.

“PGH Lab is a win-win program: startups get real world experience and an opportunity to refine their products and services and the City has access to a leading edge service or technology designed to improve operations,” Peduto said in a statement.

The website for the program emphasizes that it is “not a fast-track to procurement.” And that the city cannot pay startups for using their products or services during the pilot initiative.

Heading-up the program is the Department of Innovation and Performance and a review committee. The committee members are from the mayor’s office, the city’s law and public works departments, its Office of Management and Budget and its economic development agency.

"I get a lot of inquiries from some really great startups, with cool services and technologies, that could really benefit city operations. But there's really no way for me to evaluate, let alone accept any of these," Debra Lam, Pittsburgh’s chief innovation and performance officer, told Route Fifty on Wednesday. Great ideas, she said, were “happening around our community that we within city government couldn't use or implement.”

Lam explained that if the city connects with a startup that provides a product or service that really works well, there’s a possibility the partnership could be continued, but that would involve the company going through Pittsburgh’s standard procurement process.

“It's pretty unprecedented,” Lam said of the new pilot program. “It's pretty exciting to be able to open the doors up . . . And to really be asking the question of startups: How can we work together?”

Bill Lucia is a Reporter for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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