“Making Houston work better.”

This is the singular goal of Houston Solutions Lab.

Recently unveiled by Metrolab Network, the partnership is tasked with discovering solutions to the city’s biggest problems via big data.

As stated on its site, “The hope is to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing Houston, leveraging city leaders’ inside knowledge of city operations and Rice researchers’ analytical capacity.”

Applying leading-edge disciplines—including urban data analytics and digital & information technology—the lab is part of a larger group (under MetroLab Network) dedicated to tackling urban challenges.

MetroLab Network is comprised of 38 cities, 4 counties, 51 universities and 35 city-university collaborations tackling issues such as health, mobility, security/opportunity, income inequality, infrastructure and environmental sustainability.

The Houston Solutions Lab held its inaugural meeting in October at the BioScience Research Collaborative, Rice University’s innovative research & innovation hub. Attendees included city officials, professors and researchers.

Rice University Bioscience Research Collaborative (Cesar Rubio via SOM)

Rice University’s Bioscience Research Collaborative (Cesar Rubio via SOM)

Representing a partnership between the City of Houston and Rice University, Houston Solutions Lab will meld data collection and quantitative analysis with real-world testing and feedback.

Leaders today have to keep pace with the breakneck speed by which information travels and innovation develops, and in order to do so, they must embrace an entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit in order to flourish.

“The idea behind this network is that universities can be powerful engines of research and development. And if they’re paired with their cities, those cities can act as tremendous test beds of deployment, of scaling, of iterations that can really go to a national level,” said MetroLab Network Chair Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland and 2016 presidential candidate, while speaking at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research on February 15, 2017.

Data-driven planning and governance will be key to the future of our cities. Rice University and Houston have recognized this and plan on putting their best foot forward in solving urban challenges by harnessing urban data.