Accelerate Smart Cities
March 26 - May 16, 2024

What's Your Solution?
What solutions would help cities grow, operate, and be resilient while meeting population and climate demands over the coming decades? Tell us your solution to compete for thousands of dollars in cash and other prizes.

Congratulations to our Accelerate Smart Cities Innovation Challenge winners!

These teams demonstrated outstanding smart city solutions, paving the way toward smarter, more resilient urban communities!

About The Challenge

Kickoff Event

Tuesday, March 26
4-7 pm EST
Fuse Pilot
3434 Washington Blvd
Arlington VA 22201

Deadline for Concept Notes

Tuesday, April 2
5 pm EST

Mentor/Team Matchmaking Announcement

Monday, April 8

Pitch Video Due

Friday, April 26

Finalists Announcement

Monday, May 6

Closing Event

Wednesday May 16
4-7pm EST
Van Metre Auditorium
3351 Fairfax Dr, Arlington, VA 22201

The Accelerate Smart Cities Innovation Challenge will:

  • Introduce solutions for broadband, housing, transportation, health, water, food systems, education, infrastructure, energy, and public safety
  • Facilitate diverse cross-functional teams of talent with a shared purpose and passion to serve our community with tangible and innovative smart cities solutions
  • Recruit those interested in smart cities innovation, particularly targeting underrepresented talent in technology and entrepreneurship
  • Encourage the student teams to take their ideas to market
  • Promote collaborators to local talent, including judging and mentoring opportunities
  • Elevate and support nonprofit collaborators
  • Enable thought leadership collaboration among organizers, collaborators, and teams
  • Strengthen our regional technology ecosystem, while offering a scalable national event model

For any questions, please get in touch with us at:

Judging Criteria

Registered Teams will submit a pitch video
by April 26 at 5pm (< 4 minutes) that

1) defines the problem
2) describes the solution
3) includes a business model
4) provides a market strategy

Each solution will be judged using
the following criteria:

Innovation (25%)

How innovative is the solution? How differentiated or unique is the solution?

Regional Impact (25%)

What is the impact (e.g., number of people helped, overall reduction in costs, improved quality of life) of the solution for the Washington, DC region? Does it have the potential to be implemented across the region?

Practicality & Scalability (25%)

Can the solution be implemented in the near- to medium-term (within 1-2 years) in a cost-efficient manner? How easily can it be replicated or scaled to a larger market?

Social Responsibility & Equity (25%)

What impact does this solution have on addressing racial, accessibility, age, gender, or other inequities? How does your solution or company address important social issues like climate change? Demonstrate your neutral or positive impact.

Related Events
Hybrid and In-Person

Kickoff Event

March 26

Learn More
Innovations for Safer and Smarter Energy & Water Grids

April 10

Learn More
Intelligent Technologies Powering the Today’s Communities
Pioneering Urban Futures: A Smart Cities Venture Capital Panel
Finale and Live
Pitch Event

Partners / Sponsors

The Smart City Challenge is grateful for the generosity and support of all our partners.

Additional Resources

We are in a period of unprecedented regional urbanization and change. More than half of the world’s population now lives in or near a major urban area. As the global population continues to grow over the next two decades, the world will have to accommodate about 70 percent more inhabitants within existing physical footprints. Yet, there is a considerable lack of meaningful thought or planning at the regional level, a lack of change in the built environment, and the pandemic has starkly revealed the strains, gaps, and inequities in systems across densely populated regions.

Given the challenges of limited investment and resources, diminishing space, energy use, and the need for more resilient, equitable, and sustainable solutions, adding more physical infrastructure alone won’t work. Regional decision-making is complex; bureaucratic public procurement policies and the lack of private sector investment in research and development discourage innovation. As a result, the infrastructure to support healthy, resilient, and vibrant communities — our buildings, roads, water, energy, communication, education, and transportation systems — is deteriorating and inefficient.

The potential for innovation in the urban and built environment is largely untapped. Advancements in materials science, sensors, and control systems, and the rise of connected devices and the internet-of-things, offer opportunities to connect, improve, and in some cases, reinvent urban systems. Communities need the capability to integrate technologies and new ideas. We need companies focused on new ways to build, maintain, and operate civil infrastructure. Rapid deployment of innovative solutions will make communities smarter, more livable, resilient, and sustainable for citizens and businesses in the years to come.

What solution do you see to help cities grow, operate, and meet population demands over the coming decades?

The Problem and Solution
Frequently Asked Questions

You Have Questions And We Have Answers

What do you mean by "Smart City"?

Smart Cities develop and use digital technology and innovative solutions to serve a city’s population, improving efficiency and quality of life for residents.

What is the typical team structure and composition?

Depending on the problem you choose and your proposed solution, your team might be best as a small few or a mighty large group!

We offer no constraints on team size, although we encourage teams to reflect upon needed skills, timeframe, outside constraints/time management, and the virtual format as variables in assessing your team composition.

Can the students participate in the challenge?

Yes. There is a student track at the challenge in which the student teams will be able to participate. They will also be able to attend two I-Corps/ICAP workshops which will make them eligible to receive a $3,000 grant to participate in the I-Corps Program and conduct customer interviews.

Do I have to live in the DC area to compete?

No! While we are approaching this Smart City Challenge with a regional focus, we welcome national and global participation.

Our virtual format is a wonderful perk for participants outside the DC area. We find that Smart City challenges and solutions frequently have broad applicability around the world. Over time, we dream of scaling this event to reach many other cities.

How do I find a mentor?

Each team will be assigned a mentor to support the process and to provide guidance and feedback. We will match mentors and teams using team areas of interest and later their problem statement and proposal.

What is the problem I will help solve?

You will have significant flexibility in framing a problem of your choosing – provided that you have like-minded teammates who have a similar passion for the problem and finding a solution!

Teams will refine and define their problems, with guidance from their mentors, during the second week of the competition.

What resources and data are available to me?

We will also be providing a list of publicly available resources and data, where teams can learn more about topics and use data to inform their projects.

We also plan to offer perspectives from our partner thought leaders, subject matter experts, and mentors to offer context and insight into community challenges and high-impact opportunities that need creative sweat equity from our teams!

What are the judging criteria?

All proposals will be judged on
1) How well they advance equity in the region
2) Overall regional impact, the impact on the sector(s) highlighted in the proposal
3) How well they foster collaboration and innovation
4) Whether the solution is practical, or likely to be implemented.

Teams should submit a 4 minute pitch video that defines the problem and describes the solution which includes a business model and strategy of going to market.

Teams will be responsible for estimating the impact of their solution based on appropriate measures for their topic such as housing units created, commute times reduced, municipal return on investment, municipal savings, energy reductions, and service provision efficiencies.

Teams must also address how their solutions promote equity for all citizens (e.g., access, participation) or an underrepresented group.

What is the cost of participation?

We are asking for $30 for general “admission” ($15 for students) to help defray hosting and other expenses.

What is the time commitment?

The Challenge will last 7 weeks, from  March 26 – May 16, 2024.

We estimate that successful teams collectively will spend about 10-20 hours each during the Challenge period, with the majority of that time scheduled amongst team members in collaboration with mentors.

Teams will meet at hybrid opening (3/26) and closing events (5/16) and we are planning to stream (and record) optional (but AWESOME!) speakers and panels as well. Finalists will need to participate in person on Thursday May 16 to be eligible for prizes.



- Participation in Smart City Works and Dominion Innovation accelerator programs
- GMU Hoteling Services
- Pro bono legal services
- Business coaching

Prizes will be awarded based on innovation; equity and inclusivity; practicality of application; and regional impact (as outlined in the judging criteria).

Topic Guide Videos

Coming Soon

About the Organizers

Smart City Work Innovation HUB Logo

Smart City Works Innovation Hub

Smart City Works is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to harness the power of digital technology to create smart, sustainable, and resilient communities. We focus on urban challenges. We deliver economic growth. Smart City Works currently leads the Northern Virginia Smart Region Initiative, an initiative powered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s i6 Economic Development Challenge grant and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s GO Virginia grant. The Initiative brings together governments, universities,   businesses, and nonprofit organizations to foster the development of a thriving smart city technology innovation cluster to tackle local urban challenges and expand regional economic growth in Northern Virginia and the Greater Washington Region. Along with our partners from the private sector and local government, our goal is to make Northern Virginia the forefront of  urban technology innovation and a new locus of economic growth and vitality that leads the nation.

Smart City Venture LABS Logo

Fairfax County, VA

Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest county, is the go-to for smart technology. With more than 1.1 million residents and eleven Fortune 500 companies, professional, scientific, and technical services account for 25 percent of employment in the county, which is four times the national average. Fairfax County has created an environment which supports technological innovation and creativity. Our companies are reinventing the worlds of IT, software, aerospace and defense, and finance through breakthroughs infields such as AI, data analytics, autonomous vehicles, mobile communications, cybersecurity, and health IT. There are more than 17,500 technology companies in the region, including innovative startups, hundreds of companies from other countries, and a vibrant minority business community making it a great place to start, grow, and do business.

Smart City Work Venture Studio Logo

George Mason University

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest, most diverse, and most innovative public research university. Mason is currently ranked America’s No.1  young university, offering accessible, affordable, inclusive, and high-quality education that prepares learners for the future. We are committed to a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming environment that fosters the highest graduation and admissions rates among a diverse group of ethnicities. Our future depends on considering how all Mason community stakeholders can make a lasting impact in shaping the future: we collaborate with businesses, alumni, and community partners to not only build a lasting connection to Mason, but to also drive economic and social impact.

Smart City Work Venture Studio Logo

Dominion Energy Innovation Center

The Dominion Energy Innovation Center, located in Ashland, Virginia, supports early-stage advanced technology companies by providing them with the collaborative space, guidance, and resources needed to accelerate their growth. Founded in November 2009, the Dominion Energy Innovation Center supports great ideas across a wide spectrum of industry sectors in addition to its focus on building the alternative, renewable energy sector in Central Virginia. Founding partners of this program include the signature sponsor, Dominion Energy, as well as Activation Capital, the Town of Ashland and Hanover County.

DEIC’s main programs include the annual Center Street Pitch Competition co-hosted with Randolph-Macon College, the DEIC Accelerate program for energy-focused startups, and the DEIC Greentech Network, a virtual incubator providing opportunities for startups around the United States. DEIC is proud of our partnerships with several other leading entrepreneurial resource organizations, including the Virginia Capital Region SBDC, the Virginia Accelerator Network, the American Made Challenge ConnectorProgram, and the Wells Fargo-NREL IN2 Incubator program.

Smart City Work Venture Studio Logo

Arlington Economic Development

Arlington Economic Development (AED) is committed to helping Arlington thrive as an economically vital, competitive and sustainable community by providing leadership and services to Arlington’s business, real estate, tourism and cultural affairs sectors.

AED leads groundbreaking programs designed to attract and retain business in Arlington. We’re here to help your business get the tools and resources you need to grow and succeed in our community.