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. 

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.

The 16-week partnership program turns the City of Durham and Durham County into a lab to test your idea, product or service. Of course, this time will be different as we pivot during the pandemic.

To Apply

Applications for the 2021 Cohort will be available in early 2021. Applicants agree to the Innovate Durham Program Criteria & Expectations by submitting an application. Participants will be expected to complete the 16-week pilot period and present at the Demo Day in September 2021.

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

What is the Innovate Durham program?
The Innovate Durham program is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to apply to develop, test, and scale innovative solutions with the support of City and County staff, data and infrastructure.

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 the quality and efficiency of City or County services and operations; supporting existing local innovators; building capacity for innovation in City and County departments; and, advancing the City and County strategic plans. Selected participants will agree upon a written memorandum of understanding to outline the specific needs and expectations of the pilot period.

Who is on the review committee?
The Innovate Durham committee consists of personnel from both the City and County. Including but not limited to the City Manager's Office, County Manager's Office, City Technology Solutions Department, County Information Services & Technology Department, Economic Development offices and other city departments or work units based on the applications received.

How will Innovate Durham be 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.

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 Darin Johnson.

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