Launch Of Detroit Urban Solutions Stimulates Collaborations Across Urban Tech Sectors



April 22, 2021         





TechTown Detroit receives $545,600 grant from U.S. Economic Development

Administration to run Detroit Urban Solutions Civic Studios



DETROIT – TechTown Detroit and CIV:LAB today announced the launch of Detroit Urban Solutions (DUS). Recognizing Detroit’s spirit of innovation, along with its formidable business institutions and burgeoning startups, DUS seeks to harmonize innovation ecosystems in areas such as mobility, energy, agriculture and public health in order to identify common challenges and scalable solutions that can be deployed primarily to residents in need.


“The past year’s public health crisis has ushered in an incredible awareness and need for capacity building within the broader community and on the neighborhood level. Never has there been a time where technological infrastructure and innovative solutions for accessing infrastructure been more apparent,” said Paul Riser, director of DUS and a managing director at TechTown Detroit.


DUS partners with stakeholders in sectors including academia, nonprofits, startups and corporations who seek to implement positive change in Detroit and around the region through ongoing programming, development and technology pilot projects. Various sectors in and adjacent to technology have involved themselves in DUS’s steering committee in order to expedite innovation where there was an opportunity for increased connections.


Beyond the steering committee, members and partners of DUS engage in Civic Studios, which tackle a variety of technologically specific areas by way of problem solving and programmatic solutions, such as the future of building and energy efficiency, water quality and tech, bringing tech to neighborhoods and more.


Recently, TechTown Detroit became one of only 44 organizations across the country awarded an Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology (SPRINT) Challenge grant.

The SPRINT Challenge is designed to harness America’s entrepreneurial potential to address the economic, health and safety risks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic through entrepreneurship and innovation.


The grant, totaling $545,600, will be used to support and run Detroit Urban Solution’s Civic Studios and allow DUS to scale and amplify its work through community engagement, communications and branding strategies. It also will allow for implementing tangible projects that will result in new and existing startups being able to use innovative ideas and strategically collaborate with a wide array of organizations to address issues and problems caused by the pandemic, both by connecting communities to immediately available resources and creating solutions to longer-term issues.


“Michigan has a rich history of entrepreneurial discovery and leadership, and we are proud to build on that legacy today through TechTown Detroit’s impactful programs and resources,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “By creating opportunities to bring together some of the most creative and innovative minds in the state, we are showing the nation and the world that here in Michigan, we know how to get the job done.”


Riser went on to say that Detroit Urban Solutions is thrilled they were selected from among more than 200 competitive proposals. The grant allows DUS to perfectly align TechTown’s strength of promoting economic recovery and resilience by deploying a holistic strategy that increases regional connectivity in metro Detroit, layered with an innovative entrepreneurship support model.


“The continued success and impact that TechTown Detroit has had across the region, despite facing a global pandemic for the past year, further demonstrates the pure passion and innovation that defines Michigan on a national and global stage,” said Josh Hundt, executive vice president and chief business development officer at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We congratulate TechTown Detroit for its well-earned recognition and significant impact and look forward to continuing our efforts to work together to grow economic opportunity in Michigan in the years to come.”


Headquartered at the i2C (Industry Innovation Center, formerly NextEnergy) in Midtown Detroit, the organization is led by Riser, as well as Simon Sylvester-Chaudhuri, founder and executive director, CIV:LAB; and Emily Dabish, director of Detroit, CIV:LAB.


“We built Detroit Urban Solutions with an eye toward a list of strongly anticipated outcomes. We expect not only to help increase diversity, equity and access across urban tech sectors, but also to deliver real-world solutions that increase resiliency and create an uptick in urban tech jobs as a direct result of our work,” added Riser.


Using a grassroots approach to understand neighborhood issues and priorities, DUS and its partners work to solve identified urban problems that leverage the support of stakeholders to be deployed on-the-ground. With a lens geared toward economic impact through increased resource accessibility, DUS intends to drive job growth for the most vulnerable, help increase access to venture capital and financing, and build a stronger civic and urban innovation ecosystem that includes a broad spectrum of sectors whose work combined may provide unique problem-solving and partnerships.


“Urban innovation has been delayed as a result of economic system coordination and the opportunity can’t be ignored,” said Sylvester-Chaudhuri. “We know that there’s currently about $160 billion of unallocated capital in global unlisted infrastructure despite a $5 trillion infrastructure gap. Venture capital is largely hesitant to invest in urbantech despite a $3.8 trillion market opportunity. No agreed upon frameworks for financing innovative technologies, business models or infrastructure have been widely adopted.”


STEERING COMMITTEE                                                                                                                             

The DUS steering committee Chaired by Emily Dabish and Paul Riser will provide strategic guidance regarding the work of Detroit Urban Solutions, with representation from the major sectors of the urban innovation ecosystem in greater Detroit. These members include Accenture, Bedrock, Bosch, Building the Engine of Community Development in Detroit, City of Detroit, Ford Motor Company, Kode Labs, Michigan Central, Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, NextEnergy, Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, Office for Future Mobility and Electrification, University of Michigan, University Research Corridor and Wayne State University.