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STiR Debuts Academic Endeavor

With federally connected funding, City Innovate, the entity behind the Startup in Residence (STiR) program, has launched STiR Labs, with the aim of spurring government-academic collaboration.

City Innovate, the organization behind the Startup in Residence program (STiR), has now also launched STiR Labs, which aims to foster government and academic partnerships in the service of communities.

STiR Labs, the group announced this week, is being sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and it will leverage the STiR program’s track record and existing network of more than 40 government partners. The sponsorship is being made possible by the NSF’s EAGER grant, which awards plans like this one that have the potential to support “transformative research and research methodologies,” according to the press release.

“City Innovate’s STiR Labs is a new and exciting project which will utilize a new approach for linking researchers with communities, and unlock potential benefits to researchers who gain access to personnel and resources to address pressing community needs, communities who benefit from impactful research-based solutions, and funding entities who benefit from a set of well-developed, user-inspired research ideas,” said NSF Program Director David Corman in a statement.

This idea to foster collaboration between local government and academia is one that has grown considerably of late in the U.S., supported by groups with similar aims, including the MetroLab Network. Like MetroLab, STiR Labs will support government and academic partnerships, helping connect academia’s expertise with community needs that can be met with improved government services.

There is, however, a more concentrated structure to STiR Labs’ efforts, and that is a 16-week project period for the program, during which government staffers and researchers from public universities will work together to create insights and solutions that help participating state and local governments.

The deadline to apply to be part of this first cohort is Aug. 31, with more information about the application process available on the program’s website.

“STiR Labs is a model for civic innovation and local collaboration,” said Jay Nath, former chief innovation officer of San Francisco and Co-CEO for City Innovate, in a statement. “This program is a unique opportunity for government agencies and academic institutions to think creatively about how we can all work together to improve government to benefit residents.”

Like the original STiR program from which STiR Labs derives its name, the idea is to apply a lean startup approach to government-university partnerships, doing so by incorporating tenets of the startup world such as design thinking, lean project management and efficient procurement methodologies, which in this case will now be applied to research contracts.

STiR has now worked with more than 40 government entities, ostensibly connecting them with gov tech startups. The ideal STiR success story is perhaps Binti, a startup that partnered with the San Francisco Human Services agency when the program was still housed in that city’s local government. Binti, which works on streamlining foster-care applications, created a product that spread rapidly through California government agencies and is now doing the same throughout the country.

The STiR program has remained strong of late, with its most recent cohort including 22 government entities and 39 startups, which ultimately led to the creation of 43 new products that take innovative approaches to solving shared community problems.

A longer version of this article first appeared in Government Technology, Techwire’s sister publication.

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology magazine. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas.