Municipal Innovation Exchange (MIX)

What is MIX?

Innovation happens best when you do it with smart partners.

MIX is an emerging virtual centre of excellence by the City of Guelph, in partnership with the cities of London and Barrie, as well as MaRS Discovery District are working to run multi-city innovation procurement challenges, conduct policy research, and codify learnings into a best practice Municipal Innovation Procurement Framework.

How are we doing this?

  • We are open for (all) business. MIX is developing a model that reduces barriers and allows cities to leverage innovation procurement as a tool to find solutions from innovative companies of all sizes and at all stages. In essence, we are working to make local governments early adopters of technology.
  • We are not starting from scratch. MIX leverages the City of Guelph’s experience with the Civic Accelerator and the MaRS’ work on Procurement by Co-Design in the Health Sector.
  • We are in good company. The City of London, Barrie and Guelph have agreed to be part of this exchange to run challenge-based procurement pilots starting 2019.
  • We are big on sharing. MIX will codify lessons learned, develop case studies of each challenge round, build a network of innovators across municipal governments, and explore various models.

Our Partners

Our partners: Guelph Lab, City of Barrie, Brookfield Institute, MaRS, City of London, Innovation Guelph and the City of GuelphThe City of Guelph, in partnership with the cities of London and Barrie, as well as MaRS Discovery District, will embark on an exciting three-year 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.

Our Work

Procurement can be a tool for innovation, as shown by the ongoing work of the MaRS’ Procurement by Co-Design health innovation program and the City of Guelph’s Civic Accelerator. Both models are distinct and together will inform the development of the MIX Challenge Framework.

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

MaRS runs a unique program that offers 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 can gain unprecedented access to end users and validate use cases to remain competitive.

Using a collaborative design approach, the program targets complex systemic problems while complying with the Broader Public Sector procurement guidelines. The program is a competition that follows the new, streamlined procurement approach, and encourages the procurement of validated solutions by offering up to $50,000 to the teams that develop 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.

Why are we continuing to push the boundaries of procurement?

  • Technologies and innovation to tackle civic challenges exist, but there may not be a market-mature option available.
  • Cities are grappling with complex challenges that need to leverage emerging technology and while procurement is often seen as a barrier to innovation, we think it can be a tool to open cities to new solutions.
  • We need to build capacity for municipalities to be better able to work with businesses and encourage the exchange of innovative ideas, products, technologies, business processes and services developed with and for municipal needs.

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