During the last Inria Industry Meeting organized by PRIME in San Francisco on Smart City, we had the pleasure to interview Scott Mauvais. Mauvais is the Director of Technology and Civic innovation at Microsoft in San Francisco. He shared with us his modus operandi on how to work with startups.

How is Microsoft involved in Smart City?

First, we really see cities becoming an economic and political force in the U.S.A. We are trying to invest time and resources to better understand what issues are related to cities and how much Microsoft can contribute to them.
Three areas that Microsoft’s Technology and Civic Innovation department is investing in are:

  • Digital equity and access to technology: We are trying to bring that to the city population.
  • Economic development: We are doing some work around how to better prepare people to technical carriers. This is necessary if we want Microsoft to be a successful company ten or twenty years from now.
  • Resiliency and disaster responses: How do we make the city respond to a disaster such as floods?

Why is it important to build technology partnerships with start-ups?

Microsoft is only 40 years old. We are a fairly new company, we were a start-up not that long ago!

A lot of companies we partner with are start-ups. They are the ones who will be leaders twenty years from now and they provide a lot of technical solutions. Some of them are in opposition with us, some of them are partners. Finally, some of them just fill gaps in the technology space and provide solutions that really round out the products that we can bring there.

How do you envision partnerships with these teams and start-ups?

There are different ways to envision those partnerships. We have partners that will create their own vertical solutions, we also have partners that we sell with. They are complementary. Some of them are partners we wish to enable because they just help improve the overall ecosystem of the city.

What did you think of this 1st Inria Industry Meeting in the US?

It has been really useful. It is useful to mix companies that are early stage start-ups with people that are doing research. If we only look at start-ups, we are often missing some of the academic and data analysis background on what the problem really is and how it can be solved. Research alone doesn’t lead neither to a solution. So pairing the two of them together have been a good learning experience for me. I could understand how we look at making cities better not only in the short term space but also how we look at urban planning and energy usages ten to twenty years from now.

To get more information on this Inria Industry Meeting on Smart city and to see what has been presented, you can visit its dedicated website