Municipal Innovation Exchange (MIX)

See our challenges!

The Municipal Innovation Exchange has released a number of challenges. To learn more visit the challenges page.

What is MIX?

The Municipal Innovation Exchange (MIX) is an emerging centre of excellence using procurement as a tool to build innovation capacity and explore complex municipal challenges. MIX is a joint effort led by the City of Guelph, in partnership with the City of London, City of Barrie, and the MaRS Discovery District.

As part of MIX, each city will each run an innovation procurement challenge and explore the potential for multi-city challenges. Throughout this project, MIX will share best practices and codify learnings into a best practice for the benefit of the Municipal sector.

Our partners

Our partners: Guelph Lab, City of Barrie, Brookfield Institute, MaRS, City of London, Innovation Guelph and the City of Guelph

The City of Guelph, in partnership with the cities of London and Barrie, as well as MaRS Discovery District created the Municipal Innovation Exchange (MIX) project. Each City partner will enrich the project by building the framework to meet their needs as the project evolves.

Aside from our partners, the MIX is fortunate to have support from partners across the innovation pipeline that will contribute to the design, research and implementation of City Challenges.

What is next for us?

  • The City of Guelph has launched the first MIX Challenge process and will be ready to release their challenge in a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the market in March.
  • The City of Barrie and London will follow with the launch of their own challenges and release their challenges later this spring.

Learn more

Follow our work on Twitter and LinkedIn, and if you would like to learn more about MIX email or reach out to:

Jennifer Smith
Manager, Corporate and Community Strategic Initiatives
Strategy, Innovation and Intergovernmental Services, Office of the CAO
519-822-1260 extension 2120

Karen Gomez
Program Manager, Municipal Innovation Exchange
519-822-1260 extension 3509

Our work

Governments around the world are facing pressure to do more, but with limited resources. Public procurement has always been the way that municipal governments provide essential services to citizens, and obtain the goods and services that allow government to function. The list of items governments procure ranges from computers and software to fire trucks and road salt. Our goal is not to change all procurement, rather, we are looking to rethink strategic purchases made by municipalities, what we estimate are 10% of all purchases made.

The MIX has developed a process for innovation procurement, informed by our research, which allows for collaboration between vendor and municipalities and will drive economic and social growth by:

  • Increasing capacity for cities to respond to pressing municipal challenges
  • Enabling cities to be early adopters of innovative technologies, products, and services
  • Creating opportunities for businesses to partner with cities in developing innovative solutions to municipal challenges

Where this work started: MaRS’ Procurement by Co-Design health innovation program

MaRS ran a unique program that offered healthcare-service providers something rare: the opportunity to participate in the development of innovative solutions before procuring them. In turn, technology and service innovators with scalable business models could gain unprecedented access to end users and validate use cases to remain competitive.

Through the formation of innovation partnerships and by using a collaborative design approach, the program targeted complex systemic problems while complying with the Broader Public Sector procurement guidelines. The program was executed through a competition that followed the new, streamlined procurement approach. It encouraged the procurement of validated solutions by offering up to $50,000 to the teams that developed them.

Where this work started: Civic Accelerator

The City of Guelph launched the Civic Accelerator in 2016 to re-configure the procurement process. Rather than departments identifying specific products or services they intended to purchase, the innovation team within the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) asked city departments to articulate challenges they were facing that they had not yet been able to solve, and then helped the departments to refine these challenge statements.

The Accelerator’s purpose is to create solutions for complex municipal problems by embedding private sector start-ups inside City departments to experiment and prototype potential solutions in a low risk environment.

In essence, the Civic Accelerator turned the City into a research and development lab for civic tech companies. MIX will help evolve the Civic Accelerator model to run challenges in the future as part of MIX. For more information read the case study by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

What is special about the Civic Accelerator?

The City of Guelph worked closely with the Guelph Lab to develop this model and developed a partnership model that recognized and took advantage of the strengths of organizations including the University of Guelph, Canada’s Open Data Exchange, Innovation Guelph and the Guelph Chamber of Commerce.

What is the impact of the Civic Accelerator?

The Civic Accelerator introduces city staff to new approaches of work that generate tangible results and build a sense of accomplishment. The pilot allowed companies and startups with extraordinary access for customer discovery and product development.

AlertLabs expressed that the experience accelerated development of their company by 1-2 years, and the work done with the City opened up new revenue sources that shifted their business model.

Our research

MIX has a strong policy research component, and this report is our first piece of thought leadership. The findings of this report have supported our evolving work on innovation procurement.Read the full report, and learn more about our collaboration with the Brookfield Institute for Entrepreneurship + Innovation and the MaRS Discovery District for this report.

It is our commitment to share what insights surface in this work with the municipal sector. This report will help you:

  • Understand how governments and procurement experts are talking about innovation procurement across the globe; how it is being described in different sectors and how it is being applied in practice.
  • Glean insight into the opportunities and barriers faced by policymakers, academics, consultants, procurement experts, and companies that are working to make innovation procurement more effective.

Key insights

  • Emerging models for innovation procurement have been challenging ideas of which companies can do what kinds of work for government.
  • All levels of government are interested in engaging more small-and-medium sized businesses as a potentially untapped set of problem-solvers.
  • There is more room for experimentation at the market research and assessment stages of the procurement process.
  • Any innovation procurement must take into account the unique contexts and rules of each city.
  • While not all efforts will lead to a purchase, both procurers and suppliers are well-positioned to benefit from burgeoning relationships.
  • Need to create some controlled space to experiment with procurement approaches and solutions, manage risk, and anticipate new challenges related to innovation.
  • The definition of innovation procurement is not always clear, nor is innovation procurement always desirable or applicable to procurement across all sectors and governments—or even across all departments.

Research partners

Brookfield Institute for innovation + entrepreneurship

Municipal Innovation Exchange (MIX) challenges

Thank you for your interest in collaborating with our partner cities on our MIX Challenges. We are building on the work and momentum created by the original Civic Accelerator pilot and taking it a step further over three challenges thanks to the support and collaboration of our partners.

The challenges MIX will tackle are grounded on the needs of our citizens and the reality of municipalities. Take a look at the challenges you could help us tackle and if this is something that is of interest please visit each City’s Bids and Tenders pages.

How might the City of Guelph improve the capture, monitoring, analysis and forecasting of information related to the quality of roads?

This Challenge is closed – to see results visit City of Guelph’s Bids and Tenders page.

The broader opportunity

If a working solution is developed that meets the challenge of complex road decisions, this may benefit from a considerable market.

There are more than 765,000 km of road in Canada, and while more than half of these roads are in good condition, approximately 20% are rated as being in poor or very poor condition. Not surprisingly, municipalities, who own nearly 70% of all roads, spend a lot on road maintenance. The Municipal Benchmarking Network estimates between $12,000 and $18,000 is spent a year per kilometre of road. In 2019, for example, Guelph plans capital spending of $1,800,000 on major road repairs and $1,900,000 on restoration and resurfacing.


The City’s Engineering and Transportation team need to accurately plan when and how to repair the City’s 581 kilometre road network.

Poor quality roads are a common concern for residents across all Canadian municipalities. They reduce fuel efficiency and cost residents hundreds of dollars in vehicle repairs. Deciding which roads to repair and how to repair them is challenging.

Firstly, it’s difficult for municipalities to predict how the conditions of roads will change over time. Different traffic volumes and weather patterns mean roads in the same city don’t deteriorate in the same way or at the same rate. Freeze-thaw events and adverse weather can also suddenly alter the condition of a road. Climate-change related increases in the number of freeze-thaw events, as well as the increasing average age of the road network are only adding to the challenge.

Secondly, it’s difficult to know how and when to repair the roads. Major road repairs need to be coordinated with other construction work (e.g., replacing sewers), and dynamic changes in the condition of the roads can disrupt plans for repairs and restoration (partial resurfacing, full replacement etc.). With limited information about each segment of road, it’s also difficult to know exactly which forms of preventative maintenance will be most effective – e.g., which cracks should be sealed before bad weather? When is the optimal time to resurface the road and what is the impact of not doing it? Should different sections of the same road be treated differently?

Optimizing repairs and maintenance for the road network will increase the lifecycle of City roads, maximize the value of road maintenance spending and improve the overall quality of the road network.


The City already gathers and uses data from other asset programs (e.g., sewers, water). The proposed solution must increase the range of data points collected (more than the current 9 data points) and the frequency of the collection of road condition data (more than every 3 years).

The proposed solution should also meet any of the following outcomes:

  • Reduce the time it takes to complete annual capital plans for roads;
  • Increase the accuracy of 10 year capital plans;
  • Reduce the average spend per segment of road over a 10 year period;
  • Improve average Pavement Condition Index scores over 10 year period; and
  • Increase resident satisfaction with roads by 10% in 10 years, from 2017 baseline of 65% (very or somewhat satisfied).

The City believes promising areas for exploration include predictive analytics, use of sensors for data collection, crowdsourcing, and AI for data analysis. Proposals that fall outside these areas will be equally considered in the evaluation process.

City of London

How might an urban municipality improve the capturing, monitoring, analysis and forecasting of data related to the usage of its outdoor sport facilities?

A request for expressions of interest was issued on July 31 and closes on August 9. For further information visit the City of London’s Bids and Tenders page.


The Parks and Recreation department in the municipality currently administers approximately 7.15 square kilometers of park space, including 215 outdoor sports spaces. Sports amenities can be booked through Parks and Recreation, however, what is booked through the system does not always reflect the real usage. Additionally, maintenance staff are scheduled according to programmed usage of these spaces, not actual usage. Currently, the only way to accurately track and monitor the usage of the open spaces is through staff inspections which are expensive to complete and are conducted infrequently.

Current pricing of outdoor sport fields remains low to remove affordability obstacles. However, older, well established associations with greater capital have the ability to book space for an entire year and there is little cost-benefit incentive to update their booking registration for the occasions when they are not using the field.

During the yearly booking request process, the City prioritizes the utilization of these spaces by children and youth, given that adult sport associations have greater capacity to travel.


The proposed solution should meet the following outcomes:

  • Generate accurate space utilization data
  • Determine whether a space has been used in accordance to its schedule
  • Create usage metrics and records
  • Distinguish between types of user and usage

The proposed solution should allow for the Parks & Recreation department to have one or more of the following:

  • Increased supply of space without capital spending
  • Optimized use of space, increasing utilization to 95%
  • Cross-over with the on-line booking platform
  • Allowance for better, more efficient assignment and allocation of staff time
  • Allowance for better, more efficient use of infrastructure and utilities
  • Improvement of the quality of data used for capital planning and infrastructure upgrades
  • Improvement of the data on users and types of usage
  • Avoidance of unnecessary capital expenditures on extra land purchases