2016 PGH Lab cohort TransitSource attaches a Sentinal Box to a volunteer's bike. Image courtesy of PGH Lab.

The City of Pittsburgh continues its mission of engaging the local startup community with the second round of PGH Lab.

Companies can now apply for the 2017 cycle of PGH Lab, a program that recruits startups to improve city operations. Chosen candidates will pilot their products or services with various departments at the City of Pittsburgh or any participating organizations for three to four months.

PGH Lab launched last year by selecting three companiesHiberSense, TransitSource, and Renergéfrom a pool of 27 applicants. The cohorts successfully completed the program last December.

“It was the first time they tested their products with a real work client on a larger scale,” says PGH Lab project manager Annia Aleman. “They got to modify their products according to the need. There were hiccups so it was a good learning experience.”

Hibersense, a spinout company from the University of Pittsburgh’s Blast Furnace accelerator, worked with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to make the 10th floor of the Ross Street Building more energy efficient with their micro-climate control sensor technology. TransitSource introduced the Department of City Planning to the life-saving potential of their Sentinel Box, a bike-mounted device able to detect and report when a vehicle passes too close to a cyclist. With the help of the Office of the Mayor, Renergé launched their hydropower-producing modular water turbine system into the Mon Wharf.

PGH Lab cohort Renergé deploys their Water Horse. Image courtesy of PGH Lab.
PGH Lab cohort Renergé deploys their Water Horse. Image courtesy of PGH Lab.

New applicants can propose solutions to challenges in the areas of City Operations, Citizen Engagement and Climate Change & the Environment, which looks at ways to help Pittsburgh meet its 2030 Climate Action Goals to reduce energy usage by 50 percent by 2030. Aleman says they also added an unspecified open category in order to attract a more diverse array of startups.

This year, the cohorts will work with two new partners, the Housing Authority and the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority. Selected startups will also have access to co-working space, the city’s network, mentoring and guidance from city affiliates, and free membership to the 1776 global incubator.

While PGH Lab offers benefits to both the companies and city government, further investment in the products or services is not guaranteed.

“There’s always the possibility that we might collaborate further or acquire some of the products,” says Aleman. “But it not necessarily part of the program.”

The PGH Lab application deadline is March 6, 2017.

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.