The City of San Diego and the University of California, San Diego said Monday they were founding members of a White House initiative to foster closer connections between cities and research universities attempting to solve civic problems.

San Diego and 20 other cities are part of the first wave of the MetroLab Network that will encourage academics to find technological solutions to urban and transportation planning, among other issues, and coordinate their efforts. The network is backed by a $1 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“The City is partnering with UC San Diego’s brightest minds to solve some of San Diego’s biggest challenges, from traffic to parking to infrastructure,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “San Diego leads in research and innovation and this will capitalize on UC San Diego’s academic resources to create real-world solutions that improve the lives of city residents.”

UCSD and the City of San Diego pledged to carry out at least three research projects in the next year. The other cities and the 25 universities they are working with made similar pledges.

The network is part of President Obama’s $160 million “Smart Cities” initiative, which includes $35 million in grants from the National Science Foundation on self-driving cars, smart buildings, and new apps that leverage gigabit speeds, among other projects.