On May 7, 2019 the North Carolina Department of Transportation – Research & Development Office presented its first Research & Innovation Summit. The Summit was held on the campus of the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University at the Alumni – Foundation Event Center. The purpose of the Summit was to bring transportation professionals together from the public sector (NCDOT, FHWA), academia and the private sector to discuss transportation related innovations and research topics. There were over 170 attendees, roughly 35% from the public sector and 65% academic and private sector participants.
The event consisted of two plenary sessions and nine breakout sessions. The morning plenary was brought to order by Dr. Maranda McBride of the NC A&T Transportation Institute. She was followed by other speakers including from NCDOT Research and Development Manager, Neil Mastin, PE, and NCDOT Chief Deputy Secretary David Howard. Mr. Mastin discussed the importance of collaboration in research and stressed that an innovation is only an innovation if it's put into practice. CDS Howard emphasized the key role of innovation and research in driving transportation initiatives forward and addressed the importance of building relationships, including with Historically Black College and University (HBCU) partners. The keynote speaker for the morning session was Thomas Harman – Director of the Center for Accelerating Innovation for FHWA. Mr. Harman provided an impassioned talk about Innovation: “How do we find it? How do we define it? What will the Innovation accomplish?"
The breakout sessions consisted of several categories:
- Environmental & Hydraulics
- Structures, Construction and Geotechnical
- Pavement, Materials, and Maintenance
- Planning, Programming, Policy and Multi-Modal
- Traffic, Design, Mobility and Safety
The afternoon plenary speaker was Jim Trogdon III, P.E., Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Secretary Trogdon discussed the impacts of disruptors (i.e., technology, population growth, climate change). He talked about the importance of collaborations between the academic community and NCDOT as well as collaborations between Universities. He noted how research has had and should continue to have the following impacts:
- Speed up / automate permitting processes
- Improve Safety
- Enhance Multimodal Efforts
- Works to solve congestion issues
He also emphasized the importance of opportunity pipelines through HBCU engagement, internships and fellowships as well as relationship building.