Now Closed

The Ideas Competition asks you to identify challenges and priorities in your cities and communities that can benefit from technical exploration, scientific discovery, and new approaches.


Who did we ask to submit ideas? Everyone. But in particular, we asked communities — government employees, non-profits, and residents — to have a hand in defining their challenges. The Civic Innovation Challenge is about harnessing the power of research and discovery to advance civic priorities.


How can you participate? innovate@metrolabnetwork.orgWe are no longer accepting submissions, but please email us at with any questions you might have. Teams that offered the best submissions to the Ideas Competition will be invited to attend an Ideas Festival in early 2019 with the National Science Foundation, MetroLab, and Smart Cities Lab as we explore possible focus areas for the Civic Innovation Challenge.

Focus Areas

We asked for you to submit ideas that reflect challenges in one or more of the following focus areas.

Equity & Access

This category includes challenges related to obtaining health and human services, improving food access, educating and training a workforce for the 21st-century economy, and addressing underserved communities.


This category addresses the ability to withstand and recover from deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally occurring threats or incidents. These issues range from public safety and cybersecurity to sustainability and storm or weather-related events.


This category addresses the challenges related to the movement of goods and people in our communities.

Built Environment

This category includes challenges related to improving the human-made environment supporting human activity. The built environment can include buildings, parks, utilities, infrastructure, energy networks, and spaces created or modified by human behavior.

Examples of possible topics in each area include:


Equity & Access: How can communities provide workforce training using innovative technology and data approaches, like online learning, better data collection, and evidence-based policy interventions?


Resilience: Communities are at a high risk from flooding and erosion. How can we use data and technology tools, like sensing and mapping, to help protect our communities?


Mobility: Communities are searching for innovative ways to link new and incumbent mobility services with other digital services. How can data and technology be used to better enable residents to access a suite of services responsive to diverse needs?


Built Environment: How can we use mapping, sensing, and data-sharing to design and build places where all individuals — including those in strollers and wheelchairs, on bikes and on foot, and with walkers or canes — get around safely and efficiently?