Public, private, civic and academic institutions all play critical roles in driving innovation. In bringing together these diverse regional stakeholders, “there are innumerable opportunities to find success in regional collaboration utilizing best practices in data, technology, sustainability, land use and service delivery,” Sanders says.
How Public-Private Partnerships Can Spur Innovation
NTXIA pulls together an engaged network of innovation-focused organizations, all working together to learn, share, replicate and scale projects that are successful from one jurisdiction to another.
“By uniting multiple public entities, currently numbering more than two dozen, the NTXIA hopes to better align private sector capabilities with specific demands from local jurisdictions,” Sanders says. Corporate tech leaders including Cisco participate in the alliance.
As a central resource, the organization can help to streamline civic efforts. By mapping initiatives that reach across departments or jurisdictions, it can provide civic leaders with insight into what their neighbors have done or are already doing.
The time is ripe for such an effort, as many jurisdictions have unprecedented funding available. With federal funds flowing, a collaborative network “can aid broadly in making the most strategic and impactful use of this once-in-a-generation investment,” Sanders says.
Why Regional Governments Benefit from Innovative Collaboration
In the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, which houses several NXTIA members, more than 30 percent of residents live and work in different counties within the metroplex. This presents a cross-jurisdictional challenge.
“When those counties operate on disparate systems — whether emergency services, traffic signals, mass transit and so many others — we all suffer,” Sanders says.
The arrival of some 360 new residents a day in the DFW area adds to the complexity. “We must address the region as a whole if we want that growth to be sustainable environmentally and operationally,” she says.
At the same time, increases in extreme weather events, traffic, infrastructure deterioration, affordable housing and income inequality are regional issues that must be tackled in a collaborative way.
“As our cities transform into smart cities, this becomes even more critical,” Sanders says.
Why Partners Seek a Smart Region
A collaborative, regional approach can help municipal leaders address several key smart city challenges.
“The most fundamental barriers that have held us back across the U.S. in scaling smart cities and infrastructure investments are policy lags, procurement and financial constraints,” Sanders says. To drive success, “these must be addressed, and they must be addressed in an innovative and streamlined manner — hence the smart region.”
The good news is that, for the first time in a generation, funding availability is an enabler and not a barrier. But the strategic use of these funds requires “a change in mindset,” Sanders says. Specifically, it demands a pivot toward collaborative regional thinking around innovation.
“There is more precedent to point to in interlocal agreements, sharing agreements and public-private partnerships, and the hope is that through these learnings, the public sector can move more quickly to deployment than has classically been possible,” she says.