SUPERPUBLIC is an Innovation Lab founded by four organizations and run by the City Innovation Foundation on a day-to-day basis.

Founding organizations include:

    • City and County of San Francisco—Mayor’s Office of Innovation
    • Federal Government—General Services Administration
    • UC Berkeley
    • City of Oakland, California


SUPERPUBLIC is the nation’s first collaborative workspace and Innovation Lab to provide a neutral space where the private sector, the public sector, nonprofits, and academia can come together and work to solve urban problems.

SUPERPUBLIC’s founding team includes the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, City Innovate Foundation, and General Services Administration, and UC Berkeley.  Additional partners in this effort include the Center for Design Research at Stanford University and MIT Media Lab.

The goal of SUPERPUBLIC is to do work that benefits a network of 100 inclusive metros. This network consists of cities, state, regional, and federal government officials committed to work together to solve urban problems, share best practices, and build capacity to test, learn, and pilot emerging technologies.


Intergovernmental and cross-sector collaboration is critical for mobility, public safety, law enforcement, public health and other vital services that cross jurisdictions and is essential to driving new innovations and solutions.

When local governments work with state and federal agencies as well as private, community and academic partners, programs are implemented more effectively, with the potential to streamline inter-agency collaboration to reduce costs and duplication of effort.

Universities including UC Berkeley, MIT Media Lab, and Stanford’s Center for Design & Research have established departments and research institutes to focus on city science as a quantitative discipline with researchers drawn from computer science/systems, urban planning and design, and behavioral science.

Corporations are focused on developing products to improve how cities operate and their infrastructure with a new-generation of smart-city technologies based on the Internet of Things, big data, and citizen facing smart-phone and Internet applications.

Governments are focusing on performance-based procurement, to make sure that improvements to infrastructure meet their stated goals and to build public trust in government agencies as they spend taxpayer dollars.

What kinds of problems will SUPERPUBLIC work on?

To start, we expect to work on three main problems:

Digital Services in Government

More than ever before, residents need essential government services to be available online. The development of new digital services is an opportunity to rethink how we deliver services and ensure every resident has the access they need. City, state, and regional government officials come to SUPERPUBLIC looking to replicate the success of 18F and USDS, to create new teams within their respective agencies, and also to learn from San Francisco, the innovation capital of the world.

Urban Mobility

How we move ourselves and goods around is rapidly changing. We can either embrace and shape these changes or be at the mercy of them. San Francisco has chosen to lead the way by putting people first in developing safer, more equitable and innovative solutions to transportation challenges. The City of SF is seen as a leader in mobility as one of seven cities short listed as part of the DOT’s 2016 Smart City Challenge.

Changing Models for Procurement

How do we make sure that the money spent by the government delivers tangible results?  Are there new ways to experiment with procurement, so as to cut cycle time and/or improve quality? We work to advance innovative financing models to increase impact and accountability. Of particular interest: new forms of public-private partnerships.

What is open innovation about? Why is it important?

Open innovation recognizes that the best solutions to problems comes by opening up solution of the problem to a variety of players who work together to co-create a solution.  The idea is not new, not novel, but does require much orchestration.  Many corporations rely on open innovation to cut the cost of research and development, reduce cycle time required, and improve the quality of ideas.

What is the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation?

Established with Mayor Edwin Lee’s appointment of the nation’s first Chief Innovation Officer in January 2012, the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation (MOCI) operates like a startup: agile, nimble, and constantly looking for opportunities to innovate. A small team with limited financial resources, our mode of operation is “platform-play.” Leveraging best practices from the private sector, we work to open underutilized resources, modify policies, and create new partnerships that catalyze innovation. This is a team of innovators breaking down barriers in city government and partnering with the private sector to create jobs, spur innovation, and enhance the livability of the city.

What is the General Services Administration?

The GSA is an independent federal agency whose mission is to deliver the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to government and the American people. GSA has been a leader in government innovation for decades and recently stood up the Technology Transformation Service to lead the government in its transition to a more digital organization.

Where does funding for SUPERPUBLIC come from?

The City Innovate Foundation is leading fundraising efforts for SUPERPUBLIC. The City Innovate Foundation is defined as a working foundation vs. a charity.  As such, funding comes from corporations, universities and other private partners who join as members.

Funding comes from members.  Membership is open to the private sector and to city, state, and regional government leaders that make up our network of 100 inclusive metros.

Members pay for the privilege of being members, to gain access to problem sets provided by our metro members and to collaborate to craft solutions to those problems. Members also get access to university-based research and researchers.

We anticipate that some projects may come into SUPERPUBLIC with funding from state or federal programs.

What is the history and role of the City Innovate Foundation?

Kamran Saddique (Executive Director) and Peter Hirshberg (Member, Board of Directors) founded the City Innovate Foundation in 2014 in order to solve urban problems using an open innovation model and to make sure that the solutions are commercial-grade and can scale to other cities across the world.

To do this, the City Innovate Foundation works with universities as research partners, corporations as members, and with government leaders at the city, state, and regional level (“metros”).

The Foundation’s members are corporations and government officials at the city, state, or regional level.

An important part of the City Innovate Foundation’s mission is to make city, state, or regional government function better in an equitable and inclusive way by learning from our partners in the Federal Government such as 18F and also from the City of San Francisco and it’s Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation (MOCI).  The City of San Francisco was the first city in the country to establish the role of Chief Innovation Officer and is widely recognized as the innovation capital of the world.

And additional goal is to determine a set of best practices for deployment of the next generation of digital services and infrastructure and to deeply engaging citizens and residents in determining which solutions get deployed.

City Innovate Foundation runs SUPERPUBLIC and is responsible for all the programming that happens there.

The Foundation is a non-governmental agency with its own mission, roles, governance, and board of directors.

How big is the City Innovate Foundation? What is its structure?

The City Innovate Foundation is a component fund of the Giving Back Fund, a Massachusetts 501(c)(3).

Currently, the Foundation is comprised of 6 people who work full time and a number of others who volunteer their time or work on a part-time basis.

How is the GSA providing the space in a federal facility to City Innovate Foundation?

The GSA has authority to lease vacant federal space to non-federal agencies, through the agency’s outlease authority, in order to maximize the use and value of the federal government’s owned space.

City Innovate Foundation leases the space at fair market value determined by the GSA.

What makes SUPERPUBLIC different?

Across the globe, cities look to San Francisco as the “innovation capital of the world” – to quote Mayor Ed Lee.  This is the first Innovation Lab set up by city government in collaboration with the federal government and with academia to solve urban problems.

SUPERPUBLIC’s Innovation Lab brings together policy leaders at the city, state, regional level with their counterparts in Federal Government plus experts from the private sector, universities, and nonprofits.  Ours is the only Lab in the country with an explicit focus on intergovernmental collaboration.

Who are the academic partners to SUPERPUBLIC?

University of California, Berkeley; the Center for Design Research at Stanford University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab (CIty Sciences).

Who are the corporate members?

Founding corporate partners include Microsoft and Deloitte.

Where is SUPERPUBLIC located?

At 50 UN Plaza in San Francisco, which houses a number of federal agencies including the innovative product and services arm of GSA’s Technology Transformation Service known as 18F. 18F is tasked with creating next-generation digital services for the federal government.

Who will work out of SUPERPUBLIC SF?

A mix of corporate partners, university partners, city/state/federal agency staff, a handful of entrepreneurs plus City Innovate Foundation staff members involved in creating programming.

Project teams will dig deeper into problems at SUPERPUBLIC with the objective to develop solutions responding to specific urban problems. Projects will be structured following the most up to date principles of the agile development and “Lean Startup” movements.

Where does the name SUPERPUBLIC come from?

We were inspired by the example of the SUPERPUBLIC lab in Paris, which was opened in November 2014 by the 27e Région and a group of innovation professionals (Plausible Possible, Care and Co, Counterpoint), with the City of Paris, the French National State (SGMAP), and a public bank called Caisse des Dépôts.

What's the governance structure?

The day-to-day operations of SUPERPUBLIC are the responsibility of the City Innovate Foundation, working in close collaboration with its members, academic partners, and the City of San Francisco and General Services Administration.

What kind of security exists at SUPERPUBLIC? Is security a concern?

50 UN Plaza is a Federal government building that houses GSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation, among others.  Security is approached as would any other normal federal building. All visitors must show an ID before entering the building and are subject to screening via X-ray machines or the equivalent. The building is monitored 24/7 by a contract security detail who are supported by the Federal Protective Service, which is consistent with most federal buildings.

Who does City Innovate Foundation work most closely with?

City Innovate Foundation works with many people within San Francisco City and County government but especially closely with:

      • Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Officer, City and County of San Francisco
      • Gillian Gillett, Director of Transportation Policy, City and County of San Francisco

At the Federal level we work with:

      • Andrew McMahon, U.S. GSA, Regional Administrator, Region 9
      • Hillary Hartley, 18F
      • Ian Kalin, Chief Data Officer, Department of Commerce