CONTEST #3230369




 Webinar Recording



NextChallenge: Smart Cities


Today’s cities are facing many common challenges in the areas of safety, mobility, emissions, accessibility, and congestion. With urban population estimates calculating growth to rise from 54% in 2014 to 66% by 2050, stresses on a city’s services and infrastructure are expected to grow as well. NextEnergy thinks innovation is an important mechanism to proactively address the challenges facing cities and identify opportunities for new business models.


NextChallenge: Smart Cities focuses on accelerating connected, interactive and data driven solutions in advanced energy and mobility that address unmet needs in urban areas by seeking out solutions from technology companies with ideas to solve them (i.e. "Solution Providers"). Through this challenge, innovations will be demonstrated that create safer and more efficient places for people to live and work – and have a lower impact on the environment.








NextEnergy, one of the nation’s leading accelerators of advanced energy and transportation technologies, in partnership with Wells Fargo, DENSO and DTE Energy are seeking to accelerate the development of hardware and/or software solutions that will address real-world challenges facing urban areas.


Successful proposals will result in one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Improved user access and experience
  • Improved safety and security
  • Reduced impact on the environment and public health caused by emissions, land use, and/or congestion


The challenge will create a pipeline of smart city technological and entrepreneurial innovation concepts with the end goal of demonstrating these innovations at the NextEnergy Center in Detroit, or other applicable site. The demonstration will provide the Solution Provider the following:

  • Relationship-building opportunities with industry and urban leaders – increases visibility of innovation through the review process and mentoring opportunities
  • Demonstration deployment – technologies vetted by experts in real-world settings
  • Accelerated commercialization timelime – provides proof-of-concept metrics to share that can help to fast-track technology commercialization 



Participants in NextChallenge: Smart Cities vie for a grant and/or funding to execute a demonstration that will showcase a smart city solution addressing an urban challenge. One winner will be awarded up to $80,000 to demonstrate and validate their solution in 2017 at NextEnergy Center in Detroit, or applicable site that meets the needs of the selected solution. Terms of the award will be executed via a Statement of Work between NextEnergy and Winner. Up to four additional grants with a combined total of $20,000 will be awarded to finalist(s). From this selected pool of winner and finalist(s), the challenge intends to award at least 1 small business, but may elect not to if responsive proposals are not received by any qualifying small businesses.






Solutions to be demonstrated should include one or more of the following technology needs:


Smart Parking

Technologies that mitigate traffic congestion, increase convenience for users, and optimize efficiency by saving time, money and/or energy through hardware and/or software applications. Solutions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Systems that automatically park the vehicle after the passenger leaves the vehicle
  • Technologies that provide real-time data on metrics such as parking availability and reservations
  • Travel demand management strategies or automated services for traffic mitigation


Smart Transportation

Hardware and/or software applications for integrating building energy management systems with electric vehicle (EV) charging. Solutions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Smart charging management systems that may manage one or more of the following variables: timing, reservation, billing, and cost-management of EV loads 
  • Concepts incorporating demand response with EVs
  • Ideas reducing energy usage and impact on the built environment


Smart Infrastructure

Hardware and/or software solutions that foster real time info-sharing of city services for citizens (e.g., improving awareness of mobility options and best routing capabilities) and government (e.g., capacity to provide services including traffic management, emergency response and mobility options). Solutions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Sensors, vision system, and/or wireless and network controls integration to reduce electricity use, increase security, and share mass communication about traffic and weather conditions, and other factors of value to citizens
  • Communication systems integration that support public services, marketing/advertising, and provide interactive information with pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles or public transit
  • Street lighting systems that sense and respond to individuals and mobility systems in urban areas
  • Public signage that use interactive, real-time data analytics to engage and inform the public
  • Transit hubs connecting mobility options to personal and public physical infrastructure 
  • Concepts that remotely detect potholes and automatically dispatch city repair crews
  • Augmented reality concepts that support or enhance city services


Smart Buildings

Hardware and/or software applications that improve safety & security, reduce or optimize energy usage, connect to mobility systems, and support cost-effective decision-making processes. Solutions may include but are not limited to:

  • Ideas that allow home and/or building owners to quickly identify, compare and finance energy-related products such as EV chargers, provide return on investment analysis on new energy efficiency investments, or link to owner’s banking profile, loan options and current financing rates
  • Ideas integrating security, parking, external lighting, cameras, and communication and connectivity with the buildings’ tenants, employees, facility management staff and local authorities
  • Wearable technologies integrated with building systems, mobility systems, and broader urban systems


The most compelling solutions will be supported by measureable metrics, address data analytics and information sharing, and open application programming interface (API) capabilities.



Proposals that do not include a concept for a demonstration to be executed in 2017, or those that are business plans or executive summaries are not of interest.


See NextChallenge:Smart Cities for details. Must submit concept paper by July 28, 2016, by 11:59 PM EDT to be eligible. Must be 18 years of age or older to participate.  





Paul Musille


Paul Musille Ph.D.
Program Manager 



Welcome to our Innovation Contest!

Questions?  Feel free to email us at





Jean Redfield
President & CEO



Ashley Grosh

Vice President and Environmental Affairs Business Initiatives Manager

Wells Fargo




Patrick Powell

Director, Smart Cities







Marco Bruzzano

Vice President of Corporate Strategy

DTE Energy