U-City programs to create “Smart Cities”

The program will start workshops to create specific goals this fall.

by Sadman Rahman

As part of a nationwide effort, the University of Minnesota is collaborating with St. Paul and Minneapolis leaders in order to improve infrastructure and increase citizen involvement in the area.
The partnership, announced Sept. 14, is part of a plan called the MetroLab Network which aims to connect universities and cities in addressing urban developmental issues. 
The local partnership is one of 21 city-university relationships across the U.S., though specific goals won’t be set until later this fall, University Urban and Regional Planning Associate Professor Carissa Slotterback said.
The University first met with leaders from St. Paul and Minneapolis in May after the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy reached out to them and other large research institutions, she said.
Though the University collaborated with city leaders in the past on smaller levels, this will be the first program targeting the creation of a “smart city” — an area that works to improve data collection for bettering city services, Slotterback said.
The next step, she said, will be creating workshops for University and city leaders — which could include researchers from the University’s Center for Transportation Studies, Informatics Institutes and Law School — to identify specific project goals.
Slotterback said she hopes similar city-university relationships will form in the future.“It is obvious that we should be working between the two cities,” she said. “We surf between the two cities and have campuses in both.”
Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Nonprofit Leadership Assistant Professor Kathy Quick said though the cities can create and maintain public services on their own, the University has the technology to improve those services. 
Though traditionally, public universities spend time and money working to improve surrounding rural areas, Quick said she thinks the partnership will help the University transition its outreach to urban development.
“This is a really desirable thing to do,” Quick said. 
Minneapolis Manager of Continuous Improvement Jodi Molenaar-Hanson said the group will start by creating three goals for St. Paul and Minneapolis improvement and will move forward from there.
“We would like to see some projects done in shorter time frame to see results,” she said.