Austin, the capital of Texas, was the third stop on the Strategic Foresight Initiative’s (SFI) research ‘road’ trip examining the future of American technological leadership, as part of a collaborative project with Qualcomm. Throughout 2016, SFI visited cities around the United States that are at the forefront of technology-based innovation that together fuel the engine of America’s growth in tech innovation. The other cities were Madison, Wisconsin; Boulder, Colorado; and the Bay Area in California. Austin was chosen because it has become one of the nation’s most prominent tech hubs. Austin enjoys its reputation thanks to its unique local culture, epitomized by the famous slogan ‘Keep Austin Weird’, the presence of one of the largest research universities in the country in the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin), and a history of technology startups going back to the founding of Dell in 1984.
Dr. Nancy Stetson, special representative for Habitat III at the US Department of State, gave the opening remarks, where she highlighted the importance of cities in combating critical transnational security issues, ranging across areas as diverse as food security and violent extremism. Dr. Stetson, the lead negotiator for the US delegation to the conference, noted that, in an era of national gridlock, local officials often can take quicker and more effective action to address these challenges. Building more effective and inclusive transnational networks, focusing in particular on city-to-city relations and policy exchanges, will be an important topic at the Habitat III conference in Uruguay, she added. Dr. Stetson finished her remarks by inviting other stakeholders to join her and the US delegation at the conference to better shape urban development in both the United States and around the world, and help counter security threats including violent extremism, climate change, and economic inequality.
SFI staff and Qualcomm representatives visited Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, because the city is building a national reputation as a hub for technological innovation and entrepreneurship. They hosted two roundtables, each attended by individuals prominent in the local tech sector, and held several private meetings, all designed to understand Madison’s success as a tech hub and to identify the potential challenges which could undermine the city’s continued growth in the future.