Have You Shared Your Innovation with Your Neighbor?
Sometimes the inspiration to try something innovative can come from your neighbor's proverbial backyard. Creating a neighborhood for the transportation community to share their successes was the goal of the National State Transportation Innovation Council Network Showcase (STIC Showcase), conducted as part of the Virtual Summit that launched Every Day Counts round six (EDC-6; for more information, see the Innovation Corner in the Winter 2021 issue of Public Roads).
The STIC Showcase provided a virtual venue to celebrate 245 innovations developed and deployed across the country that save lives, time, and resources, and created a space for the innovations to find a wider audience to expand their use and impact.
Sara Lowry, the STIC program coordinator at the Federal Highway Administration, described the call for ideas and ground rules for participation: "Working with each STIC, we solicited for innovations that were 'homegrown,' already successfully deployed, and could easily be adapted by other transportation agencies. We were truly excited by the response!"
Sharing Insights Virtually
Organized around topics such as safety, design and construction, and maintenance and emergency response, the STIC Showcase featured virtual posters that described each innovation and its benefits, along with access to supporting resources and points of contact. Summit attendees could browse through these posters at their own pace, and download and share the information with peers.
Clare Fullerton, P.E., the manager for the North Carolina Department of Transportation's Communicate Lessons, Exchange, Advice, Record (CLEAR) Program, found immediate value with this technical content. "I have saved many submissions into my 'briefcase' so that I can view them at a later date," she says. "As things come up in day-to-day work, I've gone back to the Showcase to see if another State has solved a similar issue."
Indeed, attendees were able to compare efforts from around the country on a variety of topics. For example, visitors to the safety section could learn about the wrong-way driving initiatives from the Arizona and Florida DOTs. Elsewhere, the Indiana and Mississippi DOTs each shared their approaches to saving time by conducting risk-based contract administration and inspection.
Presenting Live Panels
To complement this content, the STIC Showcase also included three live panel sessions aligned to the overarching themes of the summit: Engaging People, Deploying Products, and Improving Processes. Twenty panelists provided 6-minute pitches to pique further interest in their innovations. For Fullerton, participating on the Engaging People panel yielded that exact objective. "I have followed up with Illinois DOT, a fellow panelist, to be included in a series of interviews to collect best practices on internal innovation practices," she says. "Without the Showcase, I wouldn't have known about the work they are doing and it's been very helpful!"
|The virtual lobby of the National STIC Network Showcase enabled attendees to access a range of content from online posters to panel presentations.
Many STIC Showcase topics clearly supported the idea that communication is key to advancing innovation. Washington State DOT's "Webinar Wednesday" series, which shares information on their research projects to encourage other agencies to implement their findings, has engaged more than 3,100 participants. California DOT's virtual Innovation Expo 2020, which engaged 1,350 individuals from 13 States, conveyed the philosophy that innovation in transportation requires an ongoing commitment of all involved to pursue new ways of conducting business.
The transportation community can continue to access all of the Showcase content through December 2021 by registering for the EDC-6 Virtual Summit at www.labroots.com/ms/virtual-event/fhwa-everyday-counts-6-virtual-summit, and clicking on the National STIC Network Showcase button. All are encouraged to explore and learn more about an amazing variety of homegrown efforts. With 245 innovations to choose from, there is bound to be something there to inspire you...and don't forget to tell your neighbors!
Jeffrey Zaharewicz is the Acting Director for the Center for Accelerating Innovation.