Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Research & Innovation

Innovation Program & Strategy

What is innovation?

Innovation is the process of using critical and creative thinking to implement ideas that create valued outcomes. Innovation leads to piloting and implementing ideas that create value for MnDOT and the public we serve.

Why innovate?

In a world of rapidly changing needs, government must operate effectively and efficiently to deliver today’s services and plan for tomorrow.

Government agencies are facing multiple challenges from dwindling budgets, increased citizen expectations, and morphing societal needs. In response, leaders increasingly see innovation as a mindset and process to help solve problems and improve the lives of the people they serve.

MnDOT is not immune from these challenges. In 2020 we began developing an innovation strategy to help the agency deliver transportation services more effectively and efficiently.

What does innovation look like?

Innovations come in all different shapes and sizes—from free quick-wins to larger scale initiatives. Here are just a few examples from across the agency.


D1 and Metro District’s homegrown tunnel washers saves the agency hundreds of thousands of dollars

photo of tunnel washer at work

CAV's self-driving vehicle pilot increases transportation options for residents in Grand Rapids, MN

photo of self-driving van stransport for wheelchairs

A new public space, North Loop Green, is joining Minneapolis through a MnDOT airspace agreement

photo of workers installing acoutic devices under bridge

Ultrasonic acoustic devices deter endangered bats from roosting in bridges during construction

photo of snowplow cab with new electronics

MnDOT's snowplow driver-assist system provides drivers with navigation and alerts them to potential hazards

photo of fence made of narrow solar panels

MnDOT is pilot testing snow fences that capture solar energy

Since the State Highway Commission was created in 1905 (replaced by MnDOT in 1976) innovation has been and continues to be an essential force in evolving the transportation industry. It has led to improvements in highways, public transit, and bikeways; and new regulation of aeronautics, railways, and ports. Going forward, we will need innovative solutions to the questions of how infrastructure can support electric vehicles.

Everyone at MnDOT is an innovator. We continue to innovate daily, in big and small ways — from making our transportation systems safer and more accessible, to developing solutions to save taxpayer dollars, to implementing more human-centered processes and ways of working.

In 2020, in collaboration with representatives from across the agency, MnDOT’s Office of Research and Innovation led the development of MnDOT's Innovation Strategy (PDF) to intentionally grow and advance  our capacity as a national leader.

Implementing the innovation strategy is an ongoing process. Here at MnDOT, we are committed to an innovative culture with a creative, problem-solving approach, using human-centered design principles and a "3E" mindset of Empathy, Experimentation, and Empowerment.

Office of Research and Innovation: Leads implementation of the Innovation Strategy. Staff follows-up when an innovation idea or request for resources is received, to determine needs and next steps.

Innovation Technical Advisory Panel: A diverse group from across the agency that spearheaded the development of the Innovation Strategy. Continues to provide input and champion culture change at the agency.

Innovation Community of Practice: Re-opening in Fall 2023 and open to all employees. The Innovation Community of Practice hosts special learning events to advance, support, and model innovation and improvement, and shares innovative ideas across the agency.

Senior Leadership Team: Leaders who set the strategy for innovative programs, services, projects, initiatives, and culture for the department.

Minnesota State Transportation Innovation Council (MN-STIC) – Members of the Council meet twice annually to provide multi-stakeholder leadership for the deployment of innovations.  Initially, the objectives and duties of the STIC shall be to provide guidance based on the Federal Highway Administration’s STIC Incentive Program

A quarterly newsletter highlighting innovative staff and projects, providing innovation resources, and offering updates to MnDOT's innovation strategy.