Overview and Purpose
On June 21, 2016, the Sacramento City Council adopted the Innovation and Growth Fund Policy and Guidelines to create new programs that expand the startup pipeline and engage the innovation ecosystem. In doing so, the council unanimously approved a framework for the Rapid Acceleration, Innovation, and Leadership in Sacramento (RAILS) Program.
RAILS offers up to $1 million in grants annually to support the development of Sacramento’s entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem through "startup enablers" — community-based initiatives and programs that help entrepreneurs take their startup from initial idea to viable company.
During the application period for the City’s inaugural 2017 RAILS cohort, we received feedback regarding the ineligibility of startups (in contrast to startup enablers) to receive direct funding through the Program. In the 2018 application cycle, startups focused on advancing key industry verticals through the Sacramento Urban Technology Lab (SUTL) framework will be eligible for funding through the Program.
SUTL embodies the "Triple Helix" model of economic innovation, where government, academia, and industry collaborate to transform Sacramento into a “living laboratory” for entrepreneurs, advanced technology businesses, and academic institutions to test, develop, and scale their ideas, products, and services. By actively supporting technology development and demonstration throughout Sacramento, SUTL will help grow the City’s existing base of high-tech workers, business incubators, and early-stage technology businesses, and encourage established technology firms and research partners to test new technologies in a live city environment. Just as important, the SUTL framework aligns the City’s innovation and economic development efforts with the imperative to accelerate quality of life improvements for all residents.
Finally, in December 2017, the City Council adopted a Citywide Youth Development Campaign Plan ("Plan") that is intended to guide the City in the design, operations, and evaluation of its children and youth programs. All City-operated and City-funded programs will be aligned under this unified vision, mission, values, goals, and youth development framework. Moreover, the City will undertake a concerted effort to increase the quality of its children and youth programs in order to have a greater impact on the future success of program participants in school, career, and life.
As such, all RAILS grant applicants should consider, as they prepare their proposal, how their project will advance the overall goals of the City, as well as how the project implements the youth development framework and social justice principles outlined in the Plan. While proposals will not be explicitly scored on these components, the City, nonetheless, is committed to ensuring that children and youth have high-quality youth development experiences in its programs.
The City of Sacramento’s RAILS program is designed to catalyze innovation in the startup community and within City Hall. Individuals, startups, companies, and nonprofits are invited to apply for grant funding in areas that include:
- Incubator and accelerator programs that provide mentorship, networking, and education to raise capital, grow their business, and create new jobs
- Programs that accelerate the commercialization of emerging technologies
- Companies making it easier to work with and in Sacramento
- Co-working spaces and nonprofit organizations bringing together the innovation community in Sacramento
- Startups that are focused on improving the quality of life in cities through the SUTL framework
- Educational programs training our next entrepreneurs in technology and business to build Sacramento-based startups
- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education for youth