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In the recently concluded Innovate Sac as part of Sacramento’s celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Mayor’s Office for Innovation and Entrepreneurship head Louis Stewart announced that the city would soon become the Sacramento Urban Technology Lab (SUTL). Inspired by Atlanta’s Technology Square, the city would be a hub for innovation and technology.

Triple Helix Innovation Model

Stewart is aware that this will take some time, citing the 20 years of development that it took for Atlanta’s Technology Square. He also explained that the SUTL uses the “triple helix” economic innovation model. The Triple Helix Stanford University thesis posits that economic development requires the combination of elements from the academia, industry and government to initiate social and institutional formats. This will allow the transformation and application of knowledge.  The SUTL will have seven focus areas: sustainability and clean tech, life sciences and health tech, food innovations, cybersecurity, civic and government tech, the Internet of Things (IoT) and workforce development.

The transformation will require a continuous effort from the community, building from the ground up and pushing innovations out the door. It would require years of collective work for a mentality of innovation to take root.

A practical example of this initiative is the use of the city or parts of it for autonomous vehicles  . Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and other community leaders, including U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) support these initiatives in building Sacramento as a tech sector. Mayor Steinberg discussed the vision for the city as a place where new things happen, and where the Urban Technology Lab is not a single building or campus, but the entire city.

Stewart explained that the announcement does not mean that there would be funding for the projects. Instead, it was meant as a rallying cry for technology companies to make Sacramento a research and development area. The call puts a name to the area’s innovation economy with its numerous resources, and the tech companies it encompasses.

Attracting Companies

The aim is to attract companies where they can use the city for testing, development and further scaling of technologies with the help of colleges and universities, startups, entrepreneurs, and tech businesses. The idea is to invite tech companies to experiment on Sacramento. Stewart is proud to say that the citizens welcome these innovations and to growing with these tech developments. It is not about selling the idea of Sacramento as a tech-friendly city which invites tech companies with financial benefits. Instead, the city is packaging itself as a place with an active role in pursuing a continuing discussion of technology, where the city’s identity integrates and influences innovation.

Currently, Sacramento is one of 11 cities in a 5G pilot program by Verizon meant  to determine the use and roles of next gen wireless technologies. The University of California, Davis, located just outside of Sacramento, gives the region an entry way towards funding for tech, as it raised $2.9 billion for research in 2015. It is one of the leading centers for agricultural technology. Other universities in the area include California State University Sacramento (CSU Sacramento) and the University of the Pacific with their own technology programs.

Another major aim of the SUTL is to encourage students from local universities, ones with cutting-edge tech programs, and entice them to stay after university. Providing homegrown talents with a venue to operate and share their expertise will aid in the success of SUTL.

The SUTL aims to answer questions about technology and make bold innovations for the future. Current estimates of job loss between 38% and 50% would have to be offset by new jobs and technologies. Taking the initiative and creating SUTL ensures that the region stays relevant as a place where people would want to work.

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