Ideas Competition FAQs

1. What is the Civic Innovation Challenge?


With support from the National Science Foundation, MetroLab Network and Smart Cities Lab will be designing a research and action competition in the smart and connected communities domain. The Civic Innovation Challenge is anticipated to launch in 2019 with funding for winning teams to support research and deployment responsive to community needs.



2. What is the Ideas Competition?


The Ideas Competition is our mechanism to crowdsource the best ideas for the Civic Innovation Challenge. We are very interested to hear what topics and challenges in your cities and communities you think might most benefit from new scientific discovery. We want to make sure that we are identifying topics that will impact communities and there is no better way to do that than hear from the communities themselves.



3. What types of ideas are you looking for?


We want to leverage data, technology, and social science so communities can rethink challenges related to Equity & Access, Resilience,  Mobility, and the Built Environment. We are looking for ideas that would rely on new discovery to solve a challenge. That challenge should be local in scope, but it should be a challenge that is also faced by multiple communities nationally. We’ve provided some sample ideas here.



4. What will make an idea stand out?


Here are the factors that we think will make an exemplary submission:

  • Ideas that require scientific discovery and that develop new knowledge;
  • Ideas that are locally applicable, and have potential to be relevant nationally; and
  • Ideas that reflect significant challenges in the community.
  • You can view our guidelines page for a more detailed set of instructions.


5. When is the submission due?


With offices closed throughout the country due to weather conditions, we have extended the deadline for the Ideas Competition to Monday, February 4, 2019 (closes at 11:59 PM ET).



6. How will I know my submission has been received?


You will see a confirmation on the last page of the form once you submit. If you do not see this confirmation, please contact us at



7. Who should submit ideas?


We are looking for innovative ideas from teams who know and understand the needs of their communities. To that end, individuals may submit their ideas, but we encourage joint submissions from cities, universities, and other partners, including partners from the private and non-profit sectors. We encourage each submission to have a local community representative and a university representative. We encourage you to submit even if you have never worked with us or NSF before. Specific guidelines can be found here.



8. How will my submission be judged?


Submissions will be judged by a team from MetroLab Network and Smart Cities Lab. Submissions will be measured based on their relevance to community needs and their technical scientific rigor as outlined in the guidelines.



9. What happens if my idea is selected?


Some ideas may be considered as-is for the Challenge; others may be combined to reflect ideas proposed in multiple submissions. We’ll be inviting a handful of those who submitted ideas to an Ideas Festival to develop and refine the final prompts for the Challenge. Please note that submitting or selecting your idea will not give your team or city/community preference in the Challenge. Further, please be aware that your ideas will be used to help promote and shape the Challenge, which includes use on social media, and in discussions with partners.



10. Why should I submit an idea?


Your responses will be used to define and shape the Civic Innovation Challenge. That puts you at the table with communities, researchers, government, philanthropy, and industry as they jointly foster civic innovation. It provides a pathway to harness leading thinking to address your community’s challenge.



11. Can I submit more than once?


Yes! We encourage it.



12. What if my idea fits in more than one category?


That’s great! We expect that many ideas will. Here are some examples:

  • Submissions that deal with food security may address Equity & Access, Resilience, and Mobility; and
  • Submissions that related to air quality measurement may address Resilience, Mobility, Equity & Access, and Built Environment.


So, feel free to check boxes in all the categories your idea addresses!



13. What if my idea doesn’t fit in any category?


Please select the category that best fits your idea. In the comments section of the form, please elaborate on concerns you have about your idea fitting in the category.



14. What are the roles of the organizations running the Ideas Competition and where can I find information on NSF, MetroLab Network and Smart Cities Lab?


With support from the National Science Foundation, MetroLab Network and Smart Cities Lab will be designing a research and action competition in the smart and connected communities domain. You can visit the NSF Smart & Connected Communities webpage to find out more about NSF’s investments in this area even beyond the Challenge. Visit the MetroLab Network and Smart Cities Lab websites to learn more about their work as well.



15. I still have questions. How should I find out more information on the Ideas Competition?


If you have specific questions about the submission, you can email us at