Birmingham mayor William Bell announced at the Birmingham City Council meeting on Tuesday that the city, in collaboration with the UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center, is one of 16 cities selected to receive an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant.
The Smarter Cities Challenge contributes the skills and expertise of IBM’s top talent to address critical issues facing cities around the world. Over the past three years, 100 cities have been selected to receive grants, with the contributions valued at more than $50 million and counting.
“In Birmingham, the team will work closely with city leaders and the UAB Sustainable Smarter Cities Research Center (SSCRC) to develop strategies to reverse problems with abandoned or deteriorating properties and food deserts,” says Fouad Fouad, Ph.D., director of the SSCRC and chair of the UAB Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering. “By focusing on those two areas, we can lay the groundwork for change that will help stabilize neighborhoods and lead to sustainable, healthy growth for decades to come.”
The UAB SSRC signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Birmingham in February 2013 to partner on projects that would help make a more “livable” city. In October, the city and the SSCRC submitted the application for the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge in an attempt to continue the momentum already started through that original MOU.
By addressing the problems of derelict properties and food deserts , the IBM team will contribute toward that core goal of making Birmingham more livable—a broad term that could have far-reaching implications. “A city striving for higher quality living conditions that are affordable across a wide range of incomes will create business and job opportunities for a diverse, balanced community,” says SOE Dean Iwan Alexander. “We’ve learned through the years that that is a healthy environment for long-term growth. But how do you keep it that way? It is a question of balancing resource consumption with our ability to create or supply those resources necessary to build and sustain a healthy city. That’s why sustainability is so important. You have to satisfy the needs of the present without sacrificing the future health of the community.”
Birmingham is one of only three cities in the United States to receive the IBM grant for 2014, joining Dallas, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Suffolk County, New York.