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Smarter Cities Challenge Grant Program

Smarter Cities Challenge Grant Smarter Cities Challenge is a competitive grants program that funds the deployment of IBM's top experts to municipalities worldwide to help them address issues ranging from jobs, health, finance, public safety, food, and transportation, to housing, social services, energy, education, and sustainability.

Smarter Cities Challenge was originally conceived in 2011 as a three-year grant program, but highly positive feedback and significant results have encouraged IBM to extend the initiative. In its first three years, IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge deployed 600 experts on six-person teams that provided strategic and practical advice to 100 municipalities. These highly prized three-week engagements, each currently valued at USD $500,000, have helped local government address key challenges.

For these pro bono consultative engagements, IBM teams invest months studying a local issue chosen by a winning municipality.  They then spend three weeks on the ground in the region gathering and analyzing all relevant data and reports, while meeting in person with dozens of members of the government, citizen, business, and not-for-profit communities. In doing so, they gather diverse perspectives about the factors involved and potential solutions to the opportunity at hand. At the conclusion of these studies, IBM presents comprehensive recommendations for addressing the issue in line with recognized "best practices." This is followed weeks later by a more detailed, written plan for its implementation.  

Smarter Cities Challenge is an elite program, having picked only 116 municipalities out of more than 500 applicants over the last four application cycles. Strong applications propose projects designed to address high priority problems of critical importance to citizens. The city or region must be able to share detailed information to help the IBM team analyze the issue. Leaders must also guarantee face-to-face access to city, regional, civic and business stakeholders for interviews with IBM team members so that they may comprehensively assess a given problem and recommend solutions.

IBM dispatches IBMers on these engagements who hail from all over the world, and who offer diverse perspectives and skills in the areas of marketing, communications, technology, research and development, government, human resources, finance, business, legal matters and specific disciplines such as transportation, energy and health.

Given that effective local governance today relies on the coordination of multiple municipalities, IBM actively encouraged regional governments to apply for these grants in 2014, not just cities. With the previous participation of 100 cities, the Smarter Cities Challenge program now also offers winning municipalities access to fellow leaders with whom to consult on similar issues, so as to share strategies that have been effective elsewhere. 

To view the news of the 2013 Smarter Cities Challenge winners, please visit the Citizen IBM blog. Join the conversation on Twitter #smartercities

News releases
Date Title
25 Mar 2014 IBM Awards Cities and Regions With Grants to Fund Collaborations With IBM Problem Solvers
07 Oct 2013 IBM Extends Grant Program for Cities and Regions
14 Nov 2012 IBM Names Worldwide Recipients of 2013 Smarter Cities Challenge Grants to Improve Urban Life
03 Aug 2012 IBM Plan Seeks To Map Growth and Optimize Revenue Collection In Accra, Ghana
15 Mar 2012 IBM Names Worldwide Recipients of 2012 Smarter Cities Challenge Grants to Improve Urban Life
12 Jan 2012 City Of Philadelphia, IBM Announce Efforts To Improve Workforce Development
24 Oct 2011 IBM Opens $50 Million Smarter Cities Challenge Grant Program To 2012 Applicants
09 Mar 2011 IBM Names First Recipients Of Smarter Cities Challenge Grants
09 Nov 2010 IBM Pledges $50 Million To Create 100 Smarter Cities


  • IBMer and and someone shaking hands

    IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Team Meets Syracuse Citizens

    Date added: 25 Mar 2014

    In 2011, a team of IBMers was deployed Syracuse as part of the pro bono Smarter Cities Challenge grant program. They met citizens and stakeholders and helped the city formulate a plan for analyzing big data to stabilize its neighborhoods. (Credit: IBM)

  • Mayor Nutter at IBM Smarter Cities

    Mayor Nutter at IBM Smarter Cities

    Date added: 15 Nov 2012

    In Palisades, New York, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania speaks about how he is transforming the city of Philadelphia at the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Summit. Nearly 30 global mayors convened at the IBM event to discuss urban challenges. (Michael Pollio/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

  • Smarter Cities Challenge 2013 Winners

    Smarter Cities Challenge 2013 Winners

    Date added: 15 Nov 2012

    In Palisades, New York, Stanley Litow (left), Vice President, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs of IBM names the new recipients of the Smarter Cities Challenge grants at the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Summit. (left to right) Winning mayors include: Mayor Miro Weinberger of Burlington, Vermont, Mayor Jose Fortunati of Porto Alegre, Brazil, The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor Alderman Gavin Robinson of Belfast, United Kingdom, Mayor Madeline Rogero of Knoxville, Tennessee and Mayor Dwight Jones of Richmond, Virginia. IBM’s single largest philanthropic initiative, the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, is a three-year, 100-city, US$50 million competitive grant program that assigns a team of six IBM experts to each winning city to study a key issue identified by the city's leadership. (Courtesy: Feature Photo) Contact: Lisa Lanspery,, 1-914-499-6532

Contact(s) for the Press kit

Ari Fishkind
IBM Media Relations