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Rochester, Syracuse get Bloomberg Innovation Teams grants

Rochester and Syracuse are two of a dozen nationwide cities to be receiving grant money from Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovations Teams program.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner will soon have an innovation team to help develop new ways to solve city problems. Miner says they’ll look at using big data to solve some of what she calls the city’s "intractable problems."

"First and foremost, we’re obviously very interested in infrastructure. And we’re looking to see if we can use some of these professionals to gather data and look at what’s being done in other places and finance infrastructure," said Miner.  

The mayor says she’ll bring in a new team from outside city hall. It will report to her. "We’re going to be looking for people who can handle big data sets and can use data in a way that can help drive smart decisions," she said.

The $1.3 million in grant money will be paid out over the next three years. Miner says having the innovation team will allow the city to spend more time than it’s able to now on coming up with creative solutions to old problems.

"So what this grant allows us to do, is to look at those creative things that we think, ‘Geez, if we only had time, we could look at this and figure out how to do that,'" Miner said.

The city of Rochester will use its grant money to help deal with its high poverty rate. Called the "i-Team," its goals are modest - a one-percent improvement is a win.

City Neighborhood and Business Development Commissioner Del Smith says the new Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives  will focus on this issue.

"This innovation team will be out there, really trying to work to address many of these challenges in Rochester that we know that we can tackle and that we know we can make progress with," he said. 

Bloomberg Philanthropies was founded by the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It focuses on a number issues, including government innovation. Bloomberg money is going to 10 other cities, too - so all of the data generated by the effort can be used to help all cities.

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail