Competition and Collaboration: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

The biggest news in smart cities is a new nation-wide competition for $100 million to design, develop and deploy innovative wireless communication and networking technologies at real-world scale. The Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program is a joint effort by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a wireless industry consortium of 25 leading companies that US Ignite and Northeastern University will run.

“PAWR provides leverage in several ways,” said Ken Calvert, division director of Computer and Network Systems NSF, at the SXSW panel Wireless Network Innovation: Smart City Foundation, today. “Companies and NSF pool resources to explore more than they could individually. Researchers deploy innovation in the real world, doing much more than they could in a lab. Companies access talent and energy from worldwide researchers. Hosting companies gain experience with the platforms of tomorrow.”

This win-win-win-win program is the perfect demonstration of how collaboration and competition, while sometimes in conflict, go hand-in-hand. Cities will fight hard for the megaphone, infrastructure, and economic growth that will inevitably accompany funding at such a substantial scale. At the same time, progressive smart cities know that nothing can be done alone, and collaboration is the only way to make meaningful advances.

“The cities that are leading are ones that can bring together constituents who are committed, representing multiple stakeholders, and thinking through the issues,” said Joe Kochan, COO and co-founder of US Ignite.

Additionally, competitors for funding won’t necessarily be losers, even if they don’t win in the traditional sense. Those who raise their hands and have skin in the game to work diligently through PAWR will not shy away easily, regardless of their status in the final four. More than likely, they will find ways to continue to raise awareness of their differentiators, develop meaningful partnerships, and fight for the best technological advances in their communities.

“Remember that cities are the center of action, where hope meets the street, and where policies and technologies have to be implemented,” Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta said. “The wonderful thing about my business is that we are judged by how much we improve other people’s lives. We fully share everything we have with our counterparts in other cities, and that’s the opportunity.”

Learn more about the PAWR program at, and encourage the city leaders near you to arm wrestle for a chance to transform your community.