The Government of India Smart Cities Mission is getting a facelift from the United States India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), which, in collaboration with the University of California Berkeley, is launching Smart City 4.0 in India—an initiative to accelerate technologies and create fundable startups that will work towards developing smart cities. The USISPF is working closely with the Bhartiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh, and is planning to launch its first co-innovation laboratory in Allahabad which has been identified under the 100 smart cities mission.
Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Manav Subodh, director, International Development, Innovation Acceleration Group at UC Berkeley Executive Education, said, “The USISPF has accelerated efforts to amplify the presence of US-based industries in Allahabad. The Forum has already facilitated various Private Public Partnership (PPP) projects in healthcare in the state, and is now broadening themes relevant to the government and US companies alike.”
The initiative, in a simultaneous kick to Make in India, intends to provide local solutions to local problems by roping in young innovators, startups, and local government, primarily in the areas of energy, transportation, waste management, healthcare, artificial intelligence, climate and smart agriculture. Citizen participation is touted to be one of the core characteristics of the programme, wherein youth aged between 18 and 29 years would be invited to co-create business solutions to make cities safe, smart and sustainable. The stakeholders have called the initiative, and USISPF-UC Berkeley alliance, as a great opportunity to bring together diverse groups of people as it would eventually help cater to the multitude of problems in a more comprehensive fashion.
India has retained its position as the third biggest start-up base in the world, according to a 2016 NASSCOM report. Citing India’s huge entrepreneurship potential, Subodh said, “The programme will invest in two major areas—one, in increasing funds for startups and helping them scale, and second, in providing market access opportunities by co-inventing with the future users of the technology. A lot of startups think that their product/innovation is all that matters. They do not realise that the real product is a means to get the business model. And that is why most of them fail. The aim here is to work on that.”
Calling Innovation and entrepreneurship the important catalysts in the US-India bilateral trade, Nivedita Mehra, Managing Director, USISPF, said, “ Smart City 4.0 is an initiative that will seamlessly tie together priorities of academia, industry, and the government of India, and USISPF is excited to be working on co-innovation labs here.”
Subodh added that the initiative would soon be expanded to at least eight other cities in India.
The Smart City Initiative 4.0 will kick off on 27 October this year and will invite entries and launch of Smart City Challenge. Top innovators will then go to the UC Berkeley’s Global Social Venture Competition to be held in Milan, Italy, in April 2018. In October 2018, top five start-up groups will present their ideas to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.