MetroLab Summit 2023 — Announcements, Commitments, and Sharpened Focus

MetroLab Network
6 min readJul 13, 2023


Kicking off on June 26th, MetroLab hosted its 6th annual summit at Portland State University. Bringing this ecosystem together is a catalytic way to understand what is working and what we need to bring focus to in communities across the country.

This year we came into the summit with the following goals:

  • Bring together key partners like federal + state agencies and philanthropy to share opportunities and new programming approaches;
  • Host conversations around ecosystem building at the regional level;
  • Highlight incredible work in communities that we hope can take flight in other areas around the country;
  • And engage with old and new friends.

We started day one with a warm welcome from Dr. Susan Jeffords, Portland State University Provost. Dr. Jeffords introduced Mayor Ted Wheeler to our stage, welcoming a national audience to the City of Portland. Both Mayor Wheeler and Dr. Jeffords underscored the importance of research in helping cities solve complex problems. We must believe in cities, and support their return. Data is a great place to start, “it’s good to be a nerdy mayor.”- Mayor Wheeler.

Dr. Susan Jeffords of PSU (left) and Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, OR (right) welcoming folks to the #MetroLab2023 Summit. Photos by Patric Simon

Next, a number of plenary panels highlighted various work happening at the local and regional levels. Our first panel focused on how federal and state agencies are leading innovation, research, and regional ecosystem building and learned about the various programs that agencies like the Economic Development Administration are rolling out to help stand up regional excellence. You can find links and resources from Nancy Gilbert’s presentation here.

This was followed by a panel by Portland leaders who discussed the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund, an initiative passed in 2018 that provides a consistent, long-term funding source and oversight structure to ensure that the community’s climate action efforts are implemented to support social, economic, and environmental benefits for Portlanders, particularly communities of color and people with low incomes. We rounded out the morning with a session on investing in innovation, and heard from a local family foundation, Stena Foundation, and how they have been working with the City of Salt Lake, UT and the University of Utah to drive innovation in their communities.

Next, the State of the Lab is both a moment in which I give myself a walk up song (this year’s song can be found here — please turn up to high volume), and an opportunity to give an update on MetroLab and its mission.

Kate Burns, MetroLab’s Executive Director, giving the State of the Lab at #MetroLab2023

Indeed, MetroLab has refined and expanded our work. We started as an organization that supported city/university partnerships working on smart city projects. Today, we embrace smart city projects, yes, but we also embrace innovation in affordable housing, we embrace learning about climate solutions, and we aim to disseminate research on topics like broadband connectivity in rural communities. In addition, and critically, we are moving into a far more active role within this community.

In the coming months, MetroLab will build programming to proactively understand and create long-lasting mechanisms and partnerships to bring these goals into fruition.

MetroLab also has some important announcements to share:

  • Our exclusive partnership with INRIX. INRIX seeks innovative research and local government collaborators from the MetroLab Network looking to support positive human-centered outcomes in cities. INRIX will select up to 5 teams to join this public-private partnership that will provide free access to a range of INRIX APIs for up to 1 year. Members can apply between now and August 15th.
  • The MetroLab Model Data Governance Practice and Policy Guide has been published, successfully completing our first In the Lab programming. This site has a 48 page guide that provides ordinance language and policy recommendations for the five areas of data governance: 1. Definitions + Data Classifications; 2. Privacy Principles and Policies; 3. Cybersecurity; 4. Data use and sharing agreements with third parties; and 5. Operationalization — the “how” — and Community Engagement
Our #MetroLab2023 attendees engaging with our panels and each other. Photos by Patric Simon

We also produced a resources library with over 120 links to references and policies passed by local governments across the country. This entire effort is the outcome of a MetroLab national task force of nearly 50 people from local governments, universities, and non-profit organizations.

  • Announcing our next In the Lab initiative: Generative AI for Local Governments. This task force will consider policy with a two-pronged approach: 1) what is the world of the possible and how can GenAI better city services; and 2) what processes and policies should be put into place to ensure a just, equitable, and accurate use of this technology. Please email by August 1st if you are interested in joining this effort.

Rounding out the first day, participants headed off to one of our three breakout session topics, which this year included: Partnership and Community Engagement, Climate and Infrastructure, and Data: Using It and Protecting It. As usual, we were thrilled to be able to have a wide cross-section of organizations represented in these sessions.

Our #MetroLab2023 attendees socializing at our networking reception, which was hosted at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Photos by Patric Simon.

The next morning, we were welcomed by a student from Portland State University and followed by our second annual Student Cup. The MetroLab student cup highlights students working partnership with local governments or community organizations on innovative projects. We heard from students at Cleveland State University, University of Oregon, University of Pennsylvania, and Georgia Tech on their work to impact local communities. From data privacy and equity to precision forecasting, it was wonderful to hear what current students are working on. Congratulations to the team from Cleveland State University for winning the 2023 MetroLab Student Cup!

This year’s summit featured two keynote speakers. MetroLab was honored to host Dr. Karen Marrongelle, Chief Operating Officer of the National Science Foundation, and Dr. Robert Hampshire, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology at the US Department of Transportation. We also had three plenary panels that touched on transformational partnerships, AI for local governments and universities and data justice.

Dr. Karen Marrongelle, Chief Operating Officer for the National Science Foundation (left) and Dr. Robert Hampshire, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology for the US Department of Transportation (right). Keynote speakers for #MetroLab2023. Photos by Patric Simon

The rest of day two was spent in our roundtable discussions, which, led by amazing facilitators and contributors, was an opportunity for our participants to engage in lively conversations around sustaining connected communities, student engagement, community engagement, and local research and development agendas. In particular, we hosted a workshop to better understand the needs and research output specifications of local governments. We are summarizing this workshop and will publish more on this discussion soon.

#MetroLab2023 attendees participating in a roundtable discussion

We rounded out day two by hosting our first CIVIC Innovation Showcase. Participants were able to hear from three 2021 CIVIC cohort teams who successfully completed Stages 1 and 2 and had a final opportunity to network with everyone who came out to Portland for the Summit.

Our 1st CIVIC Innovation Showcase, which closed out the #MetroLab2023 Summit. Photos by Patric Simon.

This was an incredibly fruitful two days. The MetroLab Summit brought together nearly 200 people who share a common goal: making our communities better. And indeed, we are better off because of the work from this ecosystem. Thanks to all who could join us for this year’s gathering. We’d especially like to thank Portland State University and the City of Portland staff for helping us pull this all together.



MetroLab Network

35+ city-university pairs bringing data, analytics & innovation to city gov’t thru research, development & deployment. Launched at #WHSmartCities 2015