The promise of impactful, real-world research that helps expand sustainable transportation is at the heart of a new partnership between the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the city’s CO.LAB startup accelerator.
Established by a memorandum of understanding between UTC and CO.LAB, the partnership provides students and scientists with the University’s Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) with unprecedented opportunities to apply today’s knowledge in Smart City research to find solutions to society-scale challenges.
CO.LAB is a 501c3 nonprofit that accelerates early-stage startups in the greater Chattanooga region and beyond.
“CUIP is uniquely positioned to partner with CO.LAB in the sustainable mobility sector,” said Dr. Mina Sartipi, founding director of CUIP. “Leveraging our growing and dynamic testbeds with the support of numerous community partners, CO.LAB’s new programmatic focus will help fast-track Chattanooga’s place as the hub for mobility electrifications, connectivity and automation.
“Under this MOU, CUIP will provide access to the Smart Corridor and data for startups, faculty and students to test and pilot advancing technologies in accordance with CUIP’s and UTC’s requirements and data user agreements. CO.LAB will also recruit startups that can collaborate with CUIP to address challenges of mobility.”
The partnership comes just ahead of CO.LAB’s CO.MOBILITY Summit, set for May 9-11.
“CO.LAB and Chattanooga will once again be front and center supporting startups who are building the innovative companies of tomorrow,” said Charlie Brock, chair of CO.LAB’s board of directors. “Our accelerator participants will have access to multiple technology platforms along with capital, mentorship, talent and pilot customers.”
Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly praised the initiative for building on the city’s strengths.
“Chattanooga is a green city and a smart city. I’m excited about this partnership’s potential to attract new entrepreneurial investment to Chattanooga to actualize the world-class research that Dr. Sartipi and her team are doing at CUIP—making our city even greener and even smarter,” Kelly said. “To ensure we grow in a way that’s sustainable and good for all residents, we have to put infrastructure in place that will support sustainable transportation options for every neighborhood, and this partnership will advance that goal for us.”
UTC Chancellor Steven R. Angle said the collaboration between CUIP and CO.LAB is the next step in moving the University forward.
“Using artificial intelligence (AI), big data, statistical modeling, machine learning, and remote sensing, the Center for Urban Informatics and Development has been at the forefront of cutting-edge research since its creation in 2015,” Angle said. “The work of Dr. Sartipi and the CUIP team is a shining example of UTC helping to prepare our community for the future. This agreement with CO.LAB will expand learning possibilities for our students and faculty as well as have a huge impact on our community.”
In conjunction with the CO.MOBILITY Summit, CO.LAB will launch its application process for local, regional and national startups to partner specifically with CUIP in its role in the sustainable mobility initiative. The selection of companies will be substantially based on their potential to develop or advance solutions within CUIP’s research areas. Over a 10-week development program for leaders of businesses selected to participate, CO.LAB will provide support, expertise and connections to resources.
“We are actively recruiting startups, mentors and industry partners who are engaged in the mobility revolution,” CO.LAB CEO Tasia Malakasis said. “We are open to exploring potential partnerships and opportunities to collaborate.”
Malakasis said CO.LAB’s sustainable mobility program would depend on the strength of its partners, noting that—in addition to UTC and CUIP—partners include Launch Tennessee, Freightwaves, U.S. Xpress, EPB, Brickyard, Covenant, VentureSouth of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Smart City Collaborative.
Sartipi described the partnerships as multifaceted.
“It can be collaboratively working on software development, giving CUIP access to new hardware technologies and collaboratively investigating their functionality in real-world deployments, providing domain knowledge, and more,” she said.
Engaging with CUIP means selected businesses will work with the experts behind the nation’s largest “living testbed” for connecting electric vehicles to customized charging opportunities considering traffic conditions and electric grid status.
Announced in August 2022, the testbed is within an approximately 10 square-mile area of downtown Chattanooga and enabled by $9.2 million in funding—$4.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $4.7 million from industry partners, UTC, Chattanooga city government and EPB. The funding expanded on the testbed’s groundbreaking forerunner, the 1.25-mile MLK Smart Corridor launched by Sartipi and CUIP in 2019.
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