June 2, 2017

Grant award will connect entrepreneurship programs and startups with City Digital’s smart cities initiatives

UI LABS today announced that its smart urban infrastructure program, City Digital, has been named a winner of the Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge, which aims to advance diverse entrepreneurship and accelerate startups.

As an award recipient, City Digital will receive $100,000 in funding for one year from the Blackstone Foundation. The grant will support a partnership between City Digital and the Chicago-based nonprofit Colony 5 to link inclusive entrepreneurship programs throughout Chicago with City Digital’s technology piloting and commercialization engine. Colony 5 identifies and supports entrepreneurs by connecting them with needed resources to deploy and grow their businesses.

“We see a mutual benefit in diversifying the entrepreneurial voices contributing to our smart city pilot development,” said Caralynn Nowinski Collens, CEO of UI LABS. “Startups are critical in our work to design new solutions, providing both new technology and use cases. Meanwhile, startups benefit through their participation in our consortia through improved market insights and partnering opportunities.”

City Digital will use the grant to establish inclusive entrepreneurship programming—involving veterans, women, minorities, and immigrants—at the UI LABS Innovation Center. A Colony 5 consultant will be located onsite, working with the City Digital team to develop a startup engagement strategy. Colony 5 will facilitate coordination between entrepreneurs and program activities at City Digital, such as participation in pilots and pilot planning workshops.

“Our goal at Colony 5 is to stimulate economic growth by accelerating entrepreneurship. Through partnership with City Digital, we will add our pipeline of resident-led, tech-enabled businesses to their group of corporate, academic, and civic partners working on developing innovative technology to build smart cities—with the goal of launching entrepreneurs to commercial success,” said Steven Philpott, Sr., CEO of XtraMedium Communications Group and founder of Colony 5.

The award builds off City Digital’s track record of including early-stage companies, including Chicago-based Cityzenith and Boston-based OptiRTC, within its project development processes.

City Digital facilitates cross-sector collaboration by bringing together corporate partners, and academic and civic groups, with input and involvement from the City of Chicago. City Digital enables experiments at scale to develop real solutions for the marketplace, which can be extended to have impact in other cities. Key industry partners include Microsoft, Accenture, ComEd, HBK Engineering, and Mastercard.

Eight organizations, including City Digital, were named winners of grant awards through the Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge.

About UI LABS and City Digital
UI LABS is an innovation accelerator that leverages a network of hundreds of partners from university + industry, along with startups, government, and community groups, to address problems too big for any one organization to solve on its own. Our mission is to transform industries, starting with manufacturing and infrastructure, using digital technologies. We drive value for our partners and help make the U.S. economy and workforce the most productive in the world.

In 2015, UI LABS announced the formation of its second innovation platform, City Digital, which uses Chicago as a testbed for improvements in the areas of buildings and other physical infrastructure, water and sanitation, energy management, and mobility. Ongoing pilots include research to improve Chicago’s stormwater drainage system, which is frequently overloaded, and mapping Chicago’s underground to prevent construction work from disrupting utility service.