Innovate Durham: An Innovation Partnership Program

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2017 Cohort Announced

The Office of Performance and Innovation is excited to announce the four companies selected to participate in Innovate Durham. The program gives startups and entrepreneurs a way to test their products or services using City data and infrastructure. The City received 34 applications from companies interested in participating and a review committee narrowed the field down to four participants. Each company brings a unique and innovative solution to the program.

The pilot period will run from October 6, 2017 through the end of December. 

Brief descriptions from the companies about their technological solutions along with the assigned test-case departments are as follows:


dropark logoDropark

City Department: Transportation

Dropark is an organized alternative to the mayhem of busy city centers - their goal is to reduce the time and stress it takes to find a parking spot. By using innovative technology, they can direct motorists to real-time available parking spaces, and even allow motorists to reserve their parking space ahead of arrival to their destination. Dropark wants to increase the utilization of unused parking spaces, which means they will be partnering with both public and private parking lots. As part of Innovate Durham, they will be testing their application by providing their system in the downtown Durham area.


talented grey bkgrdTalented

City Department: Human Resources

Talented is a micro-learning app, creating custom learning games for trainers and authors that are engaging and result in real-life skill transfer. As a part of Innovate Durham, City employees will have the chance to play Talented's cyber-security game, helping employees institute better habits across all City departments as well as in their personal online practices.


8 rivers grey bkgd8 Rivers Networks

City Department: Technology Solutions

8 Rivers Networks is a Durham-based company that is being spun out of 8 Rivers Capital, the innovation development organization. 8 Rivers Networks has developed a groundbreaking optical wireless communications system that delivers gigabit speeds over the air where fiber is too difficult or expensive to deploy. As part of Innovate Durham, they will be building a connection between City Hall and a nearby City building to increase network capacity and service.


lucid dream logo black bkgdLucid Dream VR

City/County Department: Planning

Lucid Dream builds virtual and augmented reality software applications for large enterprises, educational institutions, government agencies, and non-profits. They help forward-thinking leaders and their teams to leverage VR/AR tech to create and scalably deliver immersive experiences that impact audiences on a more visceral level than is achievable with traditional web and screen-based media. As part of Innovate Durham, they will help City staff and residents use immersive technology to conduct more informed evaluations of new construction initiatives by allowing unbuilt projects to be viewed virtually at human scale and in three dimensions during the planning and public input phase


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About Innovate Durham 

The Innovate Durham program provides a platform where local startups use technology to make the City of Durham more efficient, sustainable and inclusive.The 12-week program will grant access to City data and infrastructure while providing a testbed for products or services. As a significant client and testing ground, the City gives entrepreneurs a valuable use case for their products and services. This exposure can potentially help attract new investors and clients. Participants will get access to City resources and networks as well as mentoring and guidance from a City champion. In return for providing a valuable testing ground and special access to City resources to selected entrepreneurs, the City hopes to learn about new technologies and approaches to improve the delivery of services or provide savings to Durham residents. 

Goals of the program include:

  • Improving economic vitality, social equity and environmental quality in Durham
  • Improving the quality and efficiency of City services and operations
  • Supporting existing local innovators
  • Advancing the City's Strategic Plan, Vision & Mission

More Information

What is the Innovate Durham program?
The City’s Innovate Durham program is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to apply to develop, test, and scale innovative solutions with the support of Durham data and infrastructure to solve community problems and improve City operations.

What criteria will be used to determine which companies will be accepted to participate in Innovate Durham?
The criteria used to choose participants for Innovate Durham may include the following criteria, but is not limited to: improving economic vitality, social equity and environmental quality in Durham; improving the quality and efficiency of City services and operations; supporting existing local innovators; and advancing the City's strategic plan, vision and mission. Selected participants and the City will agree upon a written memorandum of understanding to outline the specific needs and expectations of the testing period.

Who is on the review committee?
The Innovate Durham committee will consist of personnel from the City Manager's Office, Budget & Management Services, Information Services, Transportation, the Office of Workforce & Economic Development, and the Office of Performance & Innovation.

How will Innovate Durham be structured?
Selected participants will partner with the City for a 12-week testing period, which will begin in September and finish by December 31, 2017. Participants will be required to meet with the Office of Performance & Innovation every two weeks to discuss the progress of the partnership. After the 12-week testing period, participants will have the opportunity to present their results to Mayor William V. "Bill" Bell, City Manager Thomas J. Bonfield, and the Innovate Durham committee.

Will the City invest financially in my company during the Innovate Durham program?
Companies that are selected to participate in Innovate Durham will not receive any financial investment from the City. However, during the trial period, the City will allow these companies to have access to City data, resources, personnel and infrastructure to provide a testbed for their product or service.

What does the City of Durham get out of the program?
The City hopes to learn about new technologies and approaches from the partnership program in the hopes of improving operations or solving community problems. The City will also work with participants to obtain any necessary permissions or licenses to use and apply what was learned in the trial period for the benefit of Durham residents.

Do any other cities have a program like Innovate Durham?
Yes, several cities across the country have very similar programs to Innovate Durham. Those cities include Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.

When are the applications due?
Applications closed on August 28, 2017. A first review of applications occurred on August 14, 2017.

Have more questions?
Contact: Ben Kittelson, Caley Patten or Josh Edwards.