David Gilford, on the W2NYC Global Industry Challenge
With a background in finance and renewable energy, David Gilford has always been fascinated by how technology can solve important social issues by engaging both the public and private sectors.
As a Vice President at NYCEDC, David helps pioneer innovative change in the public sector, while serving as the city’s link to private companies that come up with new ideas.
We spoke to him about this fall's World to NYC Global Industry Challenge, that is taking place September 29 - October 2.
What is the World to NYC Global Industry Challenge?
World to NYC (W2NYC) is about bringing the world’s opportunities to New Yorkers by connecting the global technology industry with NYC’s businesses, government agencies, and fellow citizens. In the first years of the program, we’d connect with one region in the world and encourage their companies—from any sector—to come to NYC for three days. We’ve had countries from the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America visit their colleagues in New York.
This year, the focus is on single, specific sectors, and we have invited companies both internationally and from other cities in the United States. With this sector-based approach, the companies can receive more targeted engagement with New York companies in their sector.
Why is the World to NYC Global Industry Challenge important to NYC?
The W2NYC Global Industry Challenge that we’ve launched this year is important for nurturing specific sectors in New York. We have vast potential in emerging industries like smart/sustainable cities and new manufacturing—potential that needs to be encouraged.
One of the best ways to do that is by connecting our local talent with some of the pioneers in those fields from around the world. These are companies that will expand our business ecosystem and help us withstand global competitive forces.
W2NYC also allows companies from outside the NYC area to meet leaders in our local government and technology ecosystem. We help our global partners navigate the process of opening a business in New York City: the technicalities of hiring, wages, regulation, finding office space, and visa and procurement processes.
What achievements have been made to date with the program?
To show that these connections have tangible payoffs, we’ve partnered with local organizations like the Department of City Administrative Services (DCAS) on their IDEA Program. DCAS, who manages the energy use for 80 City agencies and more than 4,000 City-owned buildings, launched IDEA to identify innovative products, technologies, or approaches that could reduce building energy use and operating costs, saving the city money and making it cleaner. With W2NYC’s vast international network, it is helping DCAS to identify and connect with organizations eligible for the IDEA program.
Our proudest achievement is that we’ve helped NYC companies link with other companies abroad, while also helping international companies invest in New York City. Over 100 companies have visited and more than 30 have stayed and set up some kind of physical presence in the city.
We’ve also generated a wealth of ideas through information exchange. By bringing the world’s opportunities to New Yorkers, local companies learn from their counterparts in other parts of the world, helping them to access global technology and enter new markets.
W2NYC is also a great source of new ideas for improving the business ecosystem in NYC. Our May 2014 session generated more than 25 ideas, which were then given to NYCEDC’s Industrial Desk for development and implementation. For example, one idea that the City is now exploring is creating an online database that shows where local/regional manufactures, suppliers, and space providers are located. This would help existing companies connect with each other and help newer, tech-enabled manufacturers (e.g. 3D printers, connected devices makers, etc.) find the resources they need to get their business off the ground.
As one Israeli tech entrepreneur put it, “In three days I did more in NYC than I could have done in 6 months at home!”
What is a smart city and why was it chosen as the Fall W2NYC theme?
It means using digitally-enabled technologies, including software, hardware and connected devices, to make cities more intelligent, efficient, equitable, and resilient by optimizing use of energy, resources, and the built environment. That’s a smarter city. In order for our legacy infrastructure systems in NYC, like waste management and water distribution, to serve 21st century needs, they have to be made more efficient without compromising their current service.
To help encourage those innovations, we’ve broken the Global Industry Challenge down into three main themes:
- Mobility and Transportation: How innovations can help New Yorkers travel more efficiently and sustainably by using tools such as connected devices and big data analysis to optimize systems such as traffic management, mass transit, taxis, and parking.
- Energy and Smart Grid systems: The way we produce, distribute, and consume electricity can be made more efficient through technologies such as distributed generation and “microgrids” that are more resilient to natural disasters.
- Intelligent Infrastructure: How our physical infrastructure can use software to automatically respond to changes in supply and demand.
What are some examples of how the public and private sectors have made NYC a smarter city?
The public and private sectors have worked together to build a smarter NYC through the following:
- Better Communications Infrastructure: Fast, reliable internet access is critical to technology-based companies. Through programs like ConnectNYC, we help connect small and medium businesses with the latest in broadband technology. And WiredNYC provides a “LEED certification for Broadband,” ranking broadband reliability in NYC buildings and incentivizing innovation.
- Demonstration of New Technologies: By demonstrating to the private sector how businesses could invest in new technologies and see a return, we help stimulate new markets for smart and sustainable technologies. At the Brooklyn Army Terminal, we received a U.S. Department of Energy grant to install solar on the rooftop and energy storage in a huge battery space in the basement. The building can now use less energy at peak periods, providing cost savings to the City and removing strain from the grid, which electric utilities such as Con Edison appreciate.
- Support for Innovation: At incubators around the city, like the Urban Future Lab, we provide tailored support for entrepreneurs—facilities energy hardware innovators can sit right next to software developers. These environments often create serendipitous collaborations, as people see different approaches to related problems. Through these programs, we’re enabling startups to explore solutions to major urban challenges like sustainable infrastructure, water, transportation, and waste.
Those kinds of interactions, locally and globally, can accelerate the smart and sustainable innovations that will power our economy through the next century.
NYCEDC extends a warm welcome to these 15 international companies to New York City! Learn more about this year's delegates on our World to NYC page.