New Jersey universities to explore research collaborations and funding to make cities "smarter"

July 26, 2019

The corporate engagement offices of Princeton University; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; New Jersey Institute of Technology; and Stevens Institute of Technology are leading the formation of a working group to explore federal and industry funding for “smart cities” research in New Jersey. Higher education institutions throughout the state will be eligible and invited to participate.

The announcement follows the recent success of a multi-institutional conference, titled Building the Future: New Technological Frontiers in Cities, held at Princeton University. More than 200 participants, including faculty researchers from the four institutions, officials from city, county and state government, and representatives of companies that provide smart-city services, came together on May 6 to review current research and explore new opportunities for collaboration in this growing field.

In 2005, over half of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2050, the number is projected to grow to 68 percent, and urban areas are expected to double in size. Emphasizing the New York-Philadelphia area’s strong innovation ecosystem, the presentations focused on research that combines technology and other disciplines to advance municipal sustainability, equity, and prosperity.

The conference was organized by Princeton’s Office of Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations and the Metropolis Project, with support from Lyft. Princeton coordinated the conference with Rutgers University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Stevens Institute of Technology, and The College of New Jersey. Twenty-three companies presented their technological products and services, and 16 government representatives spotlighted municipal concerns. The conference concluded with a panel discussion of the mayors of Westfield, Plainfield, and Paterson, moderated by Beth Simone Noveck, New Jersey’s chief innovation officer. Representatives from government, companies, and universities identified areas for further research and collaboration, setting the table for the formation of a working group.

To watch the full videos from the day, click here

Sacha Patera, Associate Vice President of Rutgers’ Corporate Engagement Center, noted “The working group is an extension of our commitment to building a smart, sustainable New Jersey through new technologies and data-driven research. It will be an excellent way to leverage Rutgers’ long-standing focus on smart cities research and the broad faculty capabilities in this discipline across the entire state to address economic, social and environmental challenges.”

Keynote speaker Anu Ramaswami, the Charles M. Denny, Jr. Chair of Science, Technology, and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, gives the first address.

Keynote speaker Anu Ramaswami gives the first address. At the time, Ramaswami was the Charles M. Denny, Jr. Chair of Science, Technology, and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota. She has since been named professor of India studies, civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University, and the Princeton Environmental Institute, and the inaugural director of the M.S. Chadha Center for Global India.

At the conference, Princeton professors and researchers presented Princeton’s newly launched Metropolis Project to support research into systems and technologies that will shape cities that are more sustainable, resilient, equitable and livable. With cities accounting for 75 percent of the economic output in the United States, the project aims to develop rapid, sustainable solutions. “The conference was an ideal way to introduce Princeton’s recently-founded Metropolis Project to a wider audience and we were delighted to bring so many colleagues interested in Smart Cities to our campus,” commented Elie Bou-Zeid, Princeton professor of civil and environmental engineering, “Through this new working group, we’re looking forward to exploring potential collaborations with industry, other institutions and the cities themselves and connecting the Project with new statewide opportunities.”

Cameron Carr, Director of IoT Strategy and Scale at Microsoft and a 2003 Princeton graduate, discusses IoT and Smart Cities: Redefining Technology's Power to Unify Humanity. 

Cameron Carr, Director of IoT Strategy and Scale at Microsoft and a 2003 Princeton graduate, discusses IoT and Smart Cities: Redefining Technology's Power to Unify Humanity. 

Echoed throughout the conference was the underlying theme that devising comprehensive solutions to rapid urbanization requires partnerships between universities, industries, and municipalities. 

The New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), an NJIT corporation, is committed to strengthening relationships across sectors, according to Thomas Motyka, working group member and Senior Executive Director of Smart Cities Innovation at NJII. “NJII looks forward to connecting our work on smart cities with potential statewide efforts. We have a longstanding collaboration with Newark for creating technology test beds for smart cities, which is a great template.” Mary Ann Piazza, Executive Portfolio Manager at Stevens Institute of Technology said, “Stevens is excited to connect with other academic institutions, with companies, and with industry to further extend the impact of our faculty’s research related to New Jersey’s urban centers.”

Through collaborations and coordination among disparate research projects, the working group is hoping to attract larger-scale funding to smart cities research in New Jersey. Together, these projects are more significant and impactful than they are alone. The working group has been meeting regularly since the conference, with an initial focus on identifying and matching the needs, capabilities, and resources of relevant New Jersey stakeholders.

For more information on smart cities, the working group, and/or how to get involved, please contact Spencer Reynolds, Princeton University, Senior Associate Director of Corporate Engagement, at [email protected].

Related Links

Coping with Growth: Conference Presents Ideas to Shape Future Cities

Full Videos of the Building the Future Conference, May 6, 2019