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Public Roads - Spring 2018

Spring 2018
Issue No:
Vol. 82 No. 1
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Innovation Corner

Driving Innovation Through State Councils

by Sara Lowry

Collaborative engagement, better results: This is the concept behind the State Transportation Innovation Councils (STICs) that now work across the country. Bringing together stakeholders from public agencies, industry, and academia fuels a collaborative environment that drives the generation of ideas, promotes buy-in for those ideas, and increases opportunities for successfully identifying and deploying innovations.

The Federal Highway Administration champions the national STIC network to promote this collective engagement and to strengthen a culture of innovation in the Nation’s transportation agencies. STICs share information, identify champions to lead innovation efforts, and strengthen relationships among stakeholder partners. This network leads to improving the implementation of market-ready technologies and techniques, getting them into widespread practice as quickly as possible in locations where they offer the most benefit. It also provides a platform to brainstorm ideas that can lead to more innovations.

In one case, it even led to an innovative approach being put to work during a meeting in Texas–a creative way to present ideas.

Pitching Innovation in Texas

After the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) formed a STIC in 2016, one of its first efforts was to look for ways to gain input from the State’s large transportation community on future TxDOT research. The result was a novel approach based on a Hollywood-style pitch meeting.

When the Texas STIC met in June 2017, 68 public and private transportation stakeholders were on hand to receive a status update on innovations that TxDOT is advancing, including those selected for round 4 of FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative, EDC-4. The stakeholders also came to hear the pitches.

Seven researchers and project team members had 8minutes each to pitch their projects to representatives from the Texas Highway Patrol, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, industry, and the academic community. Then everyone in the room was asked to imagine they were a venture capitalist with their own money to invest in these transportation-related innovations. TxDOT will use the input from this exercise to inform the focus of its future research.

Jeff Zaharewicz, senior advisor at FHWA’s Center for Accelerating Innovation, attended the meeting. “The pitches offered attendees an opportunity to not only learn about upcoming innovation research implementation projects within the State, but also to provide input into the potential application of these projects,” he says. “Another result was the formation of many new opportunities to work together to further advance the innovations. This is one way STICs can empower transportation at the local level, so that innovation comes not only in the technology deliverables, but also in getting out their ideas through collaboration.”


At a meeting of the Texas STIC in June 2017, participants completed a “venture capital” exercise that promoted involvement in transportation-related innovations.


TxDOT research project manager Sonya Badgley explains that this collaboration will help ensure smart and efficient investment on behalf of everyone in the State. “Our ‘venture capital’ exercise actively engaged the audience and promoted involvement in the future of our program,” she says. “Some of the projects presented are approaching implementation stages, and the June meeting helped to provide real-time feedback for those efforts.”

Encouraging Engagement

During a STIC workshop presentation at the 2017 annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Badgley said that engaging local stakeholders is one of the primary goals of the Texas STIC.

“We have an unprecedented $38 billion over the next 10 years that will be transferred through the Texas Department of Transportation,” says Badgley. “We’re looking forward to engaging our local stakeholders through the STIC to make sure we’re making wise decisions with our public funding.”

Each STIC around the country has the potential to be a platform for leveraging knowledge, expertise, and creativity from the entire transportation community. Through collaboration within the STIC network, FHWA and the States can share innovations and get them into practice more rapidly to benefit the public.

Visit for more information.

Sara Lowry is a program coordinator at the Center for Accelerating Innovation, part of FHWA’s Office of Innovative Program Delivery.