The National Academies

NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 54-17 [Active (Synthesis)]

State DOT Innovation Programs and Practices
[ NCHRP 20-05 (Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $55,000
Staff Responsibility: Edward Harrigan
Research Agency: CTC and Associates LLC
Principal Investigator: Chris Kline
Effective Date: 2/9/2023
Completion Date: 8/9/2024
Fiscal Year: 2023

Final Scope

The focus on innovation across state transportation agencies continues to grow and strengthen. Unlike research activities, which have established programs and processes, innovation programs are relatively new. Agencies are focusing more directly on innovation, including internal organizational excellence and/or external program and project development and delivery. In addition, agencies often align their definition of innovation with only a small portion of the innovation spectrum, ranging from large agency-wide initiatives to smaller grassroots efforts. Transportation agencies are often facing similar challenges in setting innovation programs up and therefore are primarily learning from each other through informal information exchanges. A synthesis of current practice in this area is needed to assist DOTs in implementing and growing innovation programs.

The objective of this synthesis is to document state DOT innovation programs and initiatives, areas of focus on the innovation spectrum, and associated activities.

Information to be gathered includes (but is not limited to):

• Organizational approaches to foster/encourage innovation:

o Organizational charts for state DOT innovation offices, including roles and responsibilities

o Identification of state DOTs which have Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) or similar roles focused on innovation (e.g., innovation is a part of the role’s job description)

o Other internal or external roles that have a focus on innovation that are not listed in an organizational chart

• Program approaches:

o Supporting programs (e.g., Innovation Challenges, Innovation Days, Awards and Recognition programs)

o Funding sources for innovation programs (i.e., the types of funds used)

o Tools and technologies used for capturing innovations and collaboration (e.g., clearinghouses, newsletters, websites)

o Methods for capturing return on investment (ROI)

o Whether innovations are included in an agencies’ strategic plan

o Tracking including metrics and dashboards

o Program focus (boots on ground or top-down and whether there is an internal focus or includes external component)

o Cultural components including self-assessment tools and encouragement of taking informed risk to foster innovation

• Communication approaches including internal and external communication and marketing strategies

• Strategies used by DOTs to overcome challenges that state agencies face to the successful implementation and management of innovation programs and initiatives.

Information will be gathered through a literature review, a survey of state DOTs, and follow-up interviews with selected agencies for the development of case examples. Information gaps and suggestions for research to address those gaps will be identified.

Information Sources (Partial): 

• NCHRP Research Report 885: “Guide to Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Innovation for Departments of Transportation” (2016-2018)

• NCHRP Project 20-68A, Scan 18-02: “Leading Practices in Modifying Agency Organization and Management to Accommodate Changing Transportation Systems” (2018)

• NCHRP Project 20-123(09), “Feasibility Study for a Platform to Capture Innovations from State Departments of Transportation” (2021)

• AASHTO Innovation Initiative and Innovation Community of Practice

• FHWA Office of Transportation Workforce Development and Technology Deployment

TRB Staff
Edward Harrigan
Phone: 540-454-2149
Email: eharrigan@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel: October 28, 2022, Virtual meeting
Teleconference with Consultant: November 29, 2022
Second Panel: October 3, 2023

Topic Panel
Amanda Gilman-Bogie, Vermont Agency of Transportation
Todd MayIndiana Department of Transportation
Mustafa Mohamedali, Washington State Department of Transportation
Ned Parrish, Idaho Department of Transportation
Kevin Pete, Texas Department of Transportation
Dara Wheeler, California Department of Transportation
Sara LowryFederal Highway Administration
Claire Randall, Transportation Research Board

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