Philadelphia has long served as a reminder of America’s past, but the city is hoping to be a part of the country’s future with the addition of a new innovation lab.
Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled the new facility on Friday, Aug. 1 as a new refuge for city employees, students and tech experts to get creative. Located inside the Municipal Services Building near City Hall, officials hope the lab will serve as a backdrop for future problem-solving and collaboration between government and technology sectors, including events like hackathons.
“The lab will bring the spirit of startups inside of city government,” said Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid. “The goal is to create a culture of innovation, to sustain it and grow it long term.”
Modeled on a lab designed at the University of Philadelphia, this version will cycle through different topics — ranging from public health to poverty— every 90 days, with the aim of solving a variety of problems the city faces. The new facility will be incorporated into the city’s Innovation Academy, a program launched earlier this year to educate officials and lawmakers in creative problem-solving and business innovation.
Philadelphia also hopes to attract experts in a range of subjects from the more than 80 nearby universities and other institutions, according to Government Technology.
“The lab is a way to show that government can solve problems, and it is also a way to attract new talent,” Ebeid said. “There are a lot of younger people who are choosing to help solve the problems of city government, rather than be on the outside. The lab and the academy show them that we are not your typical government.”
The city also plans to invite children to participate in lab programs, partnering with the Philadelphia school district to expose students to new technology, according to City General Manager Richard Negrin.
“You’re going to see city employees, for the first time, sitting side-by-side with children from our communities who are interesting in technology and innovation, and representatives of the local tech community,” Negrin told CBS.
Created with $100,000 of city money, officials are uncertain of how to sustain the innovation lab, but as a breeding ground for ideas, they’re likely to cook one up.
MORE: The 7 Smartest Uses of Technology in Government Today