United States


Steve Adler


950,715 (2017)

Lead Innovation Officer

Kerry O'Connor

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve service delivery

  • Improve resident outcomes

  • Improve internal government operations

Critical success factors:
  • Dedicated funding

  • Dedicated innovation team

  • Leadership from Mayor

  • Culture of innovation in city

  • Support from outside city administration

Spotlight on innovation in Austin

Austin’s Innovation office supports departments throughout the city to “unpack the problem”, utilizing human-centered design, problem framing, prototyping and iteration as approaches to respond to the city’s complex challenges. The Innovation office, in collaboration with the Dell Medical School, is using blockchain technology to permanently store and maintain important documents (which might be lost or stolen) of the homeless population so that they can continue to access to vital services where these documents are required.

Note: The City Innovation Snapshot (PDF version) was produced in 2019 and some aggregate findings have been updated with the latest survey results below.

Vision and approach to innovation capacity

Along with 50% of cities surveyed, Austin has an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to 20% of cities surveyed, Austin approaches innovation capacity from a holistic/macro level.

Policy areas that Austin is focused on

Social welfare/social services
Policy areas by number of cities

Austin utilizes 5 different innovation skills or roles

Community engagement staff
Project manager
Legal expert
Innovation roles by number of cities

Under the purview of the City Manager, Austin’s Innovation Office is a standalone department, with the opening of the Design, Technology, and Innovation Fellows Program and Bloomberg i-team, the Office now consists of 12 staff.

Terms Austin most associates with innovation

Human-centered design

Austin's most common innovation activities

Taking risks and testing new ideas
e.g. prototyping new programs or models to address a persistent city challenge
Engaging residents in new ways
Developing new solutions based on digital technologies
e.g. use of drones or smart sensors
Human-centered design
e.g. prioritizing the end-user at each stage of the design process
Rethinking approaches to financing and partnerships
e.g. new public-private-partnerships; collaboration with neighboring jurisdictions
Facilitating organizational change within the municipality
e.g. silo-busting; new internal performance management; staff training and capacity building on innovation tools or techniques; reforms to contracting or procurement
  1. 1

    Taking risks or testing new ideas

  2. 2

    Data-driven analytics/public data management

  3. 3

    Engaging residents in new ways

  4. 4

    Developing new solutions based on digital technologies

  5. 5

    Organizational change within the municipality

  6. 6

    Human-centered design

  7. 7

    Rethinking your city’s approach to financing partnerships

How is innovation funded here?

Like 81% of cities surveyed, Austin has dedicated funding to support innovation capacity.

Top sources of funding

Municipal budget
(city council approved funds/operating budget)
Municipal budget
This could include, for instance, City Council approved funds; operating budget; a special funding process (bond, Mayoral special initiative funding, etc.); and participatory budgeting / citizen-selected budgeting.
External funding
External funding
This could include private, philanthropic/non-profit and/or academic/think tank resources.
Non-financial resources
(staff on loan)
Non-financial resources
This could include staff on loan and/or other in-kind contributions (e.g. materials, infrastructure…)

Activities being funded

Launching or sustaining a project
Idea generation & brainstorming
47 cities
Launching or sustaining a project
79 cities
Idea generation & brainstorming
51 cities
Investing in digital systems
36 cities
Investing in physical infrastructure
30 cities
Paying for services

How is innovation measured?

Austin has developed partnerships to promote innovation capacity and with the private sector, academia/think tanks, community and civic tech groups, and philanthropy. The city highly values seeking solutions through co-creation with people impacted by the problem.

The city’s innovation capacity grew with the launch of a Design, Technology, and Innovation Fellows Program and through partnership with Bloomberg’s i-team.

Data availability by policy area


No Response


Economic Development

Housing and built environment

Policing and law enforcement



Waste and sewage

Labour market and skills

Environment and climate change



Social inclusion and equity

Public works


Digital governance