SAN FRANCISCO — Federal technologists, change makers and academics joined the city in a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 14 for Superpublic, San Francisco’s new innovation lab. The venture is a first for the city as its work commands support and talent from regional, state and federal organizations in addition to academic and private-sector contributions. The General Services Administration (GSA) — which manages 375 million square feet of federal property — has offered the lab a 5,000-square-foot operating space in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown and support from its digital consultancy 18F, housed in the same building, which works to guide government to build, buy and share modern technology. Other partners include UC Berkeley, the Center for Design Research at Stanford University, the MIT Media Lab, Microsoft and Deloitte. The lab’s supporting nonprofits include the City Innovate Foundation and the Local Government Commission, both with missions to drive urban innovation efforts. “While it seems voluntary and innovative to do it now, we’re actually creating the conditions for the private sector, for the public sector, for academia, for those that are in government that want to innovate,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said. “We’re trying to create the conditions now so there is a lot more opportunity in the future to be successful.” Joined by city Supervisor Mark Farrell and Chief Innovation Officer Jay Nath, the mayor said Superpublic was an absolute necessity for San Francisco and Bay Area residents to be competitive in a global economy where city infrastructure, quality-of-life conditions and services determine prosperity.
“As a community interested in being smarter about what we’re doing, we hope that with Superpublic we can show we’re even more committed to using taxpayer dollars wisely,” Lee said. The lab will be mutually beneficial for the GSA. Denise Turner Roth, the GSA’s administrator, described Superpublic as a new testing ground to expand 18F’s footprint and impact in cities nationwide. Since it was founded in 2014, the group has grown to support a number of innovation projects in federal agencies.