United States


Sylvester Turner


2,300,000 (2016)

Innovation Website
Lead Innovation Officer

Jesse Bounds

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve service delivery

  • Save costs and improve efficiency within the public sector

  • Improve internal government operations

Critical success factors:
  • Dedicated innovation team

  • Leadership from Mayor

  • Culture of innovation in city

  • Support from outside city administration

Spotlight on innovation in Houston

Houston has created a water innovation hub in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to test and deploy innovative solutions on drinking water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure in the city. Through an RFP for solutions, Houston has selected 10 vendors to demonstrate their products and show value. The process is managed by a non-profit water advocacy organization at no-cost to the City, although the technology may eventually be procured by the city if proven successful.

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, Houston does not have an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to 24% of cities surveyed, Houston approaches innovation capacity in specific policy areas/domains.

Policy areas that Houston is focused on

Social welfare/social services
Policy areas by number of cities

Houston utilizes 4 different innovation skills or roles

Project manager
Data scientist
Communication officer
Innovation roles by number of cities

Situated in the Mayor’s office, Houston’s dedicated team for innovation consists of 4 staff. In addition, the Public Works Department also has an Innovation team of 3 people focused solely on that department's innovation efforts.

Terms Houston most associates with innovation

Technological innovation
Data analytics

Houston's most common innovation activities

Promoting data-driven analytics / public data management
e.g. data storage/analytics; open data; big data
Engaging residents in new ways
Developing new solutions based on digital technologies
e.g. use of drones or smart sensors
  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

Its innovation activity also includes taking risks or testing new ideas.

How is innovation funded here?

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

Top sources of funding

Municipal 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.

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?

Houston has developed partnerships to promote its innovation capacity with not-for-profit organizations.

To improve data use, the city has also developed data partnerships with academia and think tanks to collect and analyze data.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data


Policing and law enforcement



Waste and sewage

Environment and climate change


Digital governance

Insufficient data

Economic Development

Housing and built environment

Labour market and skills


Social inclusion and equity


No Response

Public works