Smart City Works Wins i6 Grant for NOVA Smart Region Initiative

A $750,000 federal grant will help launch...

July 29, 2019

A $750,000 federal grant will help launch the Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative to develop technology and address urban infrastructure challenges

Reston, VA — Smart City Works, a next-generation business accelerator focused on improving life and infrastructure in cities, and Refraction, a leading nonprofit innovation hub, won a $750,000 federal grant to develop a regional smart infrastructure innovation program for Northern Virginia.

With the i6 Challenge grant, Smart City Works and Refraction will lead the Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative, a program designed to speed the development of startups focused on urban challenges and infrastructure, grow the region’s pool of tech talent, expedite product commercialization, and strengthen the region’s smart city technology and innovation ecosystem.

The grant is the maximum available under the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) i6 Challenge program. Smart City Works was one of 26 awardees selected nationally from more than 140 applicants.

“This type of support is transformative,” said Robert Mazer, co-founder of Smart City Works. “The EDA’s grant allows our group to continue to lead and innovate in the emerging ecosystem of mature businesses, startups, universities and governments in the region.”

“We are excited to receive this recognition from the federal government of our mission to advance the smart city tech cluster at a time when addressing infrastructure challenges is key to the future of our region and country,” said Esther Lee, CEO of Refraction and former director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Overall, the program gave out $17.5 million in grants, which will be matched by $20.1 million in investment from public and private sources. Three other initiatives in the greater Washington region, including Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center in Easton, Maryland, and the Old Dominion University Research Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia, also won grants.

The Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative will use the three-year grant to graduate more than 45 companies from the intensive 90-day business acceleration program offered by Smart City Works, launch 30 new smart city products and services, train 60 apprentices and, in five years, create over 180 new jobs.

“Our goal is to drive commercial activity that solves real-world problems,” said David Heyman, co-founder of Smart City Works. “Cities are struggling today to address significant community challenges in transportation, housing, energy, water, and long-term economic and sustainability needs. This initiative will contribute substantially to a region that is fast becoming a hub for smart city technology. It will support innovative companies, help build a trained workforce and launch much-needed products.”

In addition to Smart City Works and Refraction, which will house the Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative, the program will bring together a number of partners to support entrepreneurs and help to develop, launch and pilot new smart city products and services. Key partners include Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s massive cloud computing business; Alpha, a construction consulting firm; Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm; the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), a Commonwealth of Virginia organization that supports innovation and entrepreneurship; Virginia Tech; Northern Virginia Community College; Fairfax County and Arlington County.

“It’s critical that we have a vibrant and thriving innovation ecosystem if our region is going to be competitive in the 21st century,” said Fairfax County Deputy Executive Rachel Flynn.  “This initiative will help to make Northern Virginia a smart cities innovation hub, and it advances the county’s strategic efforts to grow and diversify the economy while delivering higher quality of life. We have been working with Smart City Works, Refraction and other partners for the past two years to spur innovation and entrepreneurship, and we believe this continued partnership will make our economy even more dynamic and resilient.”

“Virginia Tech is excited to be a partner in the Northern Virginia Smart Region Initiative led by Smart City Works, which furthers our commitment to work in partnership across the region to translate scholarship and education into practice. Working across jurisdictions and beyond traditional boundaries, we can help build regional resilience through entrepreneurs leveraging technology and innovation,” said Steven McKnight, Vice President for the National Capital Region at Virginia Tech.

To find out more about Smart City Works, visit or contact

About Smart City Works. Smart City Works is a next generation business accelerator, called a BUSINESS ACTUATOR, that can rapidly move early stage ventures to commercialization, help bring products to market faster, and reduce investor risk. We focus on companies that improve the livability, operations and resilience of cities large and small, with special emphasis on urban tech, IoT devices and the built environment. Smart City Works offers business acceleration, innovation and commercialization programs to support government innovation, and foster rapid growth in companies of all sizes.

About Refraction. Over the last five years, Refraction has built the premier collaborative innovation hub in the greater Washington region. Nearly 100 companies have been members of the Refraction community of startups and high-growth businesses, which have collectively raised more than $250 million.

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