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Senate Passes Innovative Communities Bill to Connect Startups and Municipalities

July 30, 2015

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The Massachusetts Senate today voted in favor of legislation to create a new Innovative Communities program to serve as a common place of access, education and point of connection for startups and municipalities seeking innovative technology solutions. Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), founder and co-chair of the legislative Tech Hub Caucus, filed the legislation in collaboration with many stakeholders in the startup community.

“We have an incredibly strong innovation economy here in Massachusetts. It’s time for our government to be innovative too,” said Senator Spilka. “This first-of-its-kind program is the product of a collaborative, interactive process, and it will foster stronger connections and opportunities for startups and local governments.”

“Today is an important milestone for startups, government and the residents of Massachusetts,” said Cole Boskey, a Boston entrepreneur who spearheaded grassroots efforts for the bill. “We’re one step closer to making it easier for startups to pilot their products and services with municipalities throughout the state, and in turn we’re showing why Massachusetts is the best place to start a business.”

Senator Spilka filed the bill after a Tech Hub Caucus “Idea-a-thon” in November 2014, where attendees pitched ideas to help technology companies start, grow and thrive in Massachusetts. After the event, Senator Spilka met with stakeholders in government and the tech community to develop the winning idea into the Innovative Communities program.

Senate Bill 1982, An Act relative to innovative communities, establishes the Innovative Communities Office within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to connect and educate Massachusetts startups and municipalities. Startups will have the opportunity to sell their technology to cities and towns that choose to be designated as “Innovative Communities.” Cities or towns that choose to participate in the program must opt-in through a local vote, make non-confidential municipal data available to the public, attend at least one Innovative Communities event or exposition and beta test at least one technology through the program each year.

The bill also includes education to help startups understand how they can sell to government and help municipalities understand opportunities to purchase from startups. The program will hold marketing events and expositions for startups to showcase their technology to municipalities and host statewide innovation competitions to identify market-ready technologies for the needs of municipalities. The program will also vet the commercial readiness of technologies in the program and provide technical assistance to municipalities purchasing these technologies.

The bill creates an Innovative Communities Advisory Board to keep startups and government connected and a Special Commission to study the way government purchases technology.

The cost of the legislation is estimated to be $750,000 in Fiscal Year 2016.

The bill will now be considered by the House of Representatives.

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