CleanRobotics just wrapped up a pilot with the City of Pittsburgh’s innovation arm called PGH Lab, which helps local startups pilot their products and services in real environments in th Pittsburgh area. CleanRobotics is proud to have been part of their 2017 cohort of startups.

We’ll share some key insights from the pilot in our next post, but for now, here’s some info on PGH Lab. We sat down with Annia Aleman, Civic Innovation Specialist at PGH Lab, to ask a few questions about the program.

1. How would you describe the program at PGH Labs, and what benefits does it offer for startups?

Annia: The PGH Lab program brings local startups to test products and services at the City of Pittsburgh and participating authorities for 3-4 months. The program targets early-stage startups with a working prototype so that they can test products and services in a real-world environment and gain as much feedback on the product as possible. In addition, participating companies get to work with a city staff member who acts as a mentor and provides feedback on the product/service, access to the city’s network, co-working space, and free membership to the 1776 UNION online global incubator.

2. What are the criteria used to select the companies for each?

Annia: Startups are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Innovation-based solution: Solution addresses the challenge creatively and effectively, is compatible with or flexible to work with City’s IT infrastructure and City requirements.
  • Skills, Experience, and Background: Professional qualifications and education of team members, the existence (or lack thereof) of existing and working prototypes, recent relevant experience of team members.
  • Impact: The proposed solution has potential to benefit the City and its residents.
  • Inclusion: The Company’s commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion.

Has the selection process been difficult?

Annia: Not at all, companies are evaluated based on the criteria above and a scoring mechanism by the PGH Lab review committee. The companies with the highest scores move on to the second part of the selection process which includes a company presentation and an opportunity for Q&A.

3. What are some of the positive outcomes from the program?

Annia: We are still learning as we go. However, after completing the pilot projects, companies gain a deeper understanding of how their products/services work in a real-world environment and they also learn the ins and out of working with local government.

4. You supported our team throughout the program, especially with respect to logistics, and we thank you for that! How would you define your specific role within the program?

Annia: I coordinate the program, serve as a liaison between the startups and city government, and also work in the Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation team.

5. What do you think the future holds for the program?

Annia: The City of Pittsburgh and participating authorities will launch a third cycle of the program in late October. We hope to engage more local startups and to keep providing a platform for them to test their innovative products and services. In addition, we hope to grow our testing network by bringing in new partners.

We at CleanRobotics would like to thank Annia for her help and support throughout the PGH Lab Innovation pilot! Look forward to our insights in the next post. In the meantime, follow PGH Lab on Twitter @PghIP.