Innovate Durham: An Innovation Partnership Program

Innovate Durham is a 16-week partnership program that turns the City of Durham and Durham County into a lab to test new ideas, products, or services. Through the program, participants get access to staff, data, and facilities to assist with making Durham more efficient and encourage a culture of innovation at the City and County. We took a break in 2020 due to the pandemic, but we're back in 2021! 

About Innovate Durham

We're turning local government into a laboratory for startups and entrepreneurs.

Innovate Durham participants will work with a Durham City or County department to test, scale and innovate new ideas and technology. Through the program startups will get access to staff, data and facilities to assist with making Durham more efficient and encourage a culture of innovation at the City and County.

2021 Cohort

We are happy to announce our 2021 cohort of Innovate Durham. The three companies below were reviewed and selected by our review committee and successfully paired with City and County departments who had programs and services that corresponded to the work of each company. 

Our pilot period began on May 10 and will conclude on September 3. The Durham community is invited to attend our Demo Day on September 29th. More details will follow on this webpage. 


The 2021 Innovate Durham partners and their assigned test-case departments are as follows:

Acta logoActa Solutions

Durham County Register of Deeds and City-County Inspections Department

Acta Solutions is a software-as-a-service company that automates customer service communications for local governments to save time, increase revenue, and speedily provide residents, developers, and businesses with the services they need by intelligently suggesting automated responses that staff reviews before sending.

Coworks logoCoworks

Durham County Department of Social Services

Coworks provides a space management portal that allows users to organize billing, conference room/meeting space, desk reservations and more as well as a member portal to assist people working in a shared space. 

DayWatt logoDayWatt

City of Durham General Services Department and Durham County Department of General Services

DayWatt's technology enables rooftop solar installations on commercial buildings to supply long-term backup power to the facility during blackouts, a feature unavailable with conventional renewable energy approaches. The system also provides lifetime benefits through lower energy bills, decreased maintenance, and reduced carbon emissions.


Innovate Durham Program Goals

  • Test Latest Technology: Keep Durham informed of new trends and technologies by opening the doors of government to startups and entrepreneurs.
  • Build Innovation Capacity: Build capacity for innovation work by allowing departments to partner with program participants to test new ideas and use new technology.
  • Support Local Businesses: Provide opportunities for businesses to work with the City or County, giving them a use case to attract clients or investors.
  • Direct Benefit to Organizations: This year we are very excited to have cohort members involved whose products will solve organizational challenges within the City of Durham and Durham County.

More Information

How is Innovate Durham structured? 

Selected participants will partner with the City for a 16-week testing period. Participants will be required to attend several in-person events: program kickoff, cohort check ins, and Demo Day in December. Participants will also be expected to check in with Innovate Durham staff every two weeks to discuss the progress of the project. Selected participants will agree to a memorandum of understanding before the pilot period starts: Sample Innovate Durham MOU (PDF). 

Is there a financial investment as part of Innovate Durham? 

No, there is no financial investment as a part of Innovate Durham. However, during the program participants will have access to City and County data, resources, personnel and infrastructure. The intention is to create a laboratory for startups and entrepreneurs to test their product or service. 

What does the City or County get out of the program?

The City and County are using Innovate Durham to encourage a culture of innovation by creating partnerships with the business community to share ideas, collaboratively solve problems and improve operations. Both organizations hope to learn about new technologies and ideas. 

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

Have more questions?

Contact: Hannah Hemphill or Mariel Klein 

Watch the recording of our Innovate Durham: Virtual Information Session!