John Tory


2,800,000 (2016)

Lead Innovation Officer

Alice Xu

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve service delivery

  • Improve resident outcomes

  • Save costs and improve efficiency within the public sector

Critical success factors:
  • Dedicated funding

  • Focus on measurement

  • Dedicated innovation team

  • Human resource support

  • Culture of innovation in city

  • Engagement with partners

  • Support from outside city administration

  • Leadership from Mayor

Spotlight on innovation in Toronto

The City of Toronto has innovation embedded (and funded via separate operating budgets) in many areas throughout the City. Toronto also plans to make the return on investment in innovation more transparent. With an active interest in driving innovation that truly benefits Torontonians, the city is convinced that the human-centered design approach to innovation can yield better customer service experience and more trust in local government. Toronto is currently exploring how to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify policy levers that can improve housing outcomes to drive better health overall.

Vision and approach to innovation capacity

Along with 50% of cities surveyed, Toronto does not have an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to more than half of cities surveyed, Toronto approaches innovation capacity both from a holistic/macro level, as well as in specific policy areas.

Policy areas that Toronto is focused on


Housing/homelessness: Toronto is exploring how to use AI to find policy levels that will increase housing outcomes to drive better health overall.

Policy areas by number of cities

Toronto utilizes 3 different innovation skills or roles

Data scientist
Innovation roles by number of cities

Situated in the Chief Technology Officer's Technology Services Division, Toronto’s Smart City team consists of 6 staff. Toronto’s Transformation and Innovation team, made up of 6 staff, is also working on innovation in the city.

Terms Toronto most associates with innovation

Human-centered design

Toronto's most common innovation activities

Taking risks and testing new ideas
e.g. prototyping new programs or models to address a persistent city challenge
Promoting data-driven analytics / public data management
e.g. data storage/analytics; open data; big data
Engaging residents in new ways
  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, Toronto 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

Idea generation & brainstorming
Investing in digital systems
Investing in physical infrastructure
Paying for services
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

Similar to 61% of participating cities in the 2020 survey, Toronto's funding for innovation capacity is also directed towards training staff and building capacity*.

*"Training staff and building capacity" is not an option in the 2018 survey, while "Launching or sustaining a project" is not an option in the 2020 survey.

How is innovation measured?

Toronto has developed partnerships to promote innovation capacity with other public agencies, private firms, not-for-profit organizations, and city residents/resident associations.

To improve data use, the city has also developed data partnerships with the private sector, academia and think tanks, to collect and analyze data, as well as with other cities.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data


Policing and law enforcement

Waste and sewage

Labour market and skills


Social inclusion and equity

Public works

Insufficient data

Economic Development



Government finance

Environment and climate change



Digital governance

Land use

Social welfare/social services


Built environment