As Economic Recovery Dollars Are Designated for Infrastructure Improvements in the U.S., Smart City Works Labs Establishes a Venture Studio in D.C. with Rocket Wagon Venture Studios


The Biden Administration’s economic advisers are working with the U.S. Congress and business community to develop a $3 trillion package to boost the economy, reduce carbon emissions and address inequality, starting with a massive infrastructure plan poised to create jobs and fix the aging roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, transportation hubs and public spaces across the country.

Of the $3 trillion overall package, nearly two-thirds are designated for infrastructure improvements and job creation in major cities and rural towns, including transitioning to renewable energy and improving America’s ability to compete in emerging industries, with a position that building out infrastructure and addressing climate change are inseparable. 

Whether this audacious initiative will get bi-partisan support is unclear and largely unlikely, public support is strong for investing in infrastructure to build back the economy and create high-quality jobs.

According to news reports, some White House officials believe the focus of the first package will be highly appealing to Republicans, business leaders, and many moderate Senate Democrats.  A bipartisan push for a federal infrastructure bill may well be a function of the U.S. being considered a decade behind other nations in infrastructure investments.

One of the pioneering organizations in the cyber-physical infrastructure world, Smart City Works, based in Washington, DC, today announced they have formed the Smart City Works Venture Studio as a joint venture with Chicago-based Rocket Wagon Venture Studios, in a move that some see as “perfect timing” given the need for rapid innovation and collaboration between large enterprises, government, and technology disrupters.

Smart City Works Venture Studio is a new entity operated by Rocket Wagon Venture Studios in collaboration with Smart City Works Labs, specifically designed to enable startups focused on construction and the physical & digital infrastructure market to get to commercialization faster and with a higher probability of success.

The infrastructure and construction industry is amongst the lowest in terms of investment in innovation, yet one where the opportunity for improvement based on digital transformation is amongst the greatest, according to the companies’ announcement, taking the wrap off a year of planning.

Unlike traditional incubators or accelerators, a venture studio is an innovation model staffed by seasoned entrepreneurs that become a hands-on working extension of a given startup team to help them get from their Minimally Viable Product to commercialization.

The Smart City Works Venture Studio leverages the business model developed by Rocket Wagon Venture Studio and the operational model and eco-system developed by Smart City Works for its business actuator.

“The impressive progress Smart City Works has made since their inception in 2016, and their vision for more efficient, sustainable and public infrastructure in the built and digital worlds, make them an ideal business partner for Rocket Wagon,” said Tim McManus, Smart City Works Venture Studio Advisory Board Chairman. “Smart City Works focus and the Actuator program they have been running for seven previous cohorts over the last four years is timely given the renewed interest from both public and private organizations in seriously addressing major challenges to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. The startups involved are driving innovation across energy, transportation, roads, bridges, water, and services that will last into the next century. Smart City Works Venture Studio provides the framework, expertise, and resources for commercialization for the startups Smart City Works Labs continues to identify.”

“We are at an exciting crossroads with a new administration and Congress in place, with leadership in place committed to finally addressing major challenges in the midst of historic and rapid urbanization,” said David Heyman, co-founder of Smart City Works. “More than half of the world’s population now lives in or near a central urban area. Over the next two decades, the world’s cities will have to accommodate about 70 percent more residents within existing physical footprints. The catastrophic pandemic has reshaped the way we think about where we work and how we live. Now, as part of the economic recovery, innovation and investment in better public infrastructure are more important than ever.”

“The new Smart City Works Venture Studio provides a framework for commercializing technologies in the built world that connect, improve and define the physical infrastructure of the future,” said Bob Mazer, co-founder of Smart City Works. “We will help innovative solutions evolve into scalable companies focused on the discovery, development, or drastic improvement of solutions for ecosystem coordination, worker safety, materials and asset management, and more. We will draw from the team’s experience in a growing array of toolsets, including but not limited to IoT instrumented devices, drones, AR/VR, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence.  We will continue to identify and support entrepreneurial teams that we can take to the next level by inviting them into our studio to interact with corporate members looking for disruptive new products, both physical and digital.”

According to McKinsey & Co., $75 trillion is needed in global infrastructure investment by 2040, just to keep up with the world’s GDP growth. The problem is that simply adding more physical infrastructure will not work, given the challenges of limited investment and resources, diminishing space, energy use, and climate change.

The world’s great cities, and the companies that help design, build, and maintain infrastructure, need unprecedented innovation and investment to meet the demands over the coming decades.

“With recent advances in materials science, sensors, and control systems, and the rise of connected devices, the Internet of Things, and the arrival of 5G ultra-broadband networks, the potential for innovation in the urban and built environment is enormous but still largely untapped,” said Don DeLoach, co-founder, and CEO of Rocket Wagon Venture Studios. “Together with the Smart City Works team, the companies they support, and their mature and vibrant ecosystem, the Smart City Works Venture Studio will help commercialize the new processes and innovations that have the potential to make our cities smarter, more livable, resilient, sustainable and accessible to all.”

Corporate members of the Smart City Works Venture Studio will have a range of opportunities, depending on membership level, for a line of sight into the innovation within the studio, an advanced look, and right of the first offer regarding acquisition or funding of emerging startups, access to the team in the studio, ongoing reports and updates regarding the state and direction of cyber-physical transformation within the infrastructure market, and preferred access to Rocket Wagon Strategic Advisory Services.

Rocket Wagon Venture Studios helps to build startups for the cyber-physical world by providing an integrated team of experienced entrepreneurs who also have strong experience in IoT and specific vertical expertise. The RWVS parent organization provides the architectural cyber-physical framework, including considerations regarding devices, security, privacy, data governance and ownership, communications, and a broad range of analytics, as well as shared legal and financial services, underlying operational systems, and corporate relationships.

Smart City Works Venture Labs is an award-winning new class of business accelerator, called a business actuator, that can more rapidly move early-stage ventures to commercialization, reduce the risk for downstream investors, and improve the likelihood of product uptake in the marketplace. Their mission is to accelerate innovation and speed commercialization of urban tech solutions that improve the livability, operations, and resilience of cities.

Smart City Works Venture Labs are focused on infrastructure and the built environment and on changing the way to build and operate civil infrastructure. Their twice-yearly customized 90-Day intensive business actuation program is designed to propel graduating companies into the marketplace endowed with proven products and equipped with the skills to grow and compete for funding and market share.

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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