The Urban Sustainability Tech Challenge

We connect entrepreneurs, designers, and developers with the data and resources they need to create innovative solutions to neighborhood problems.


For six months in 2017, 14 volunteers committed their time, skills, and energy to comprise the cohort for CNT’s 2017 Urban Sustainability Tech Challenge. In the Tech Challenge, the collaborative team of entrepreneurs, community members, and technologists utilized their diverse professional abilities and backgrounds in partnership with CNT resources and data in the creation of a product that addresses a single urban sustainability issue.

The Challenge is a “design-think” challenge—a human-centered approach to innovation that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. Selecting among CNT’s four pillars—energy, water, transportation, and the built environment—the neighborhood innovators and budding entrepreneurs intended to collectively design a solution to an urban problem through a process we call “Rapid Prototyping in the Public Interest”. Focusing on the challenge posed by vacant urban manufacturing land, the group developed a concept product that can accelerate the redevelopment of industrial land and bring jobs to communities that need them.

In leveraging CNT data to create a product, the group ended their Tech Challenge experience with a better understanding of sustainability issues and means of reaching solutions.  With this greater understanding, the next generation of innovators will have the knowledge that data can present a viable path to market and view resolving sustainability challenges as potential economic ventures. CNT’s broader goal for this young cohort is that when these entrepreneurs across various professional fields engage in the next groundbreaking innovation and find they need data and perhaps a little bit of guidance from an acclaimed analytics team, they’ll know exactly where to find it.

The cohort presented their findings at CNT’s Sustain-a-City Celebration on September 28, 2017.