Innovation

Photo of an incandescent light bulb with a purple glow and a white glowing filament image on a black, rectangle background; the image represents the 'Innovation' Transformation Focus Area.
 

The NRC is on a journey to become a modern, risk-informed regulator. To achieve our vision, we will be innovators who make timely decisions that take into account different viewpoints and fully explored options.

On this page:

Fostering Agency-wide Innovation

The NRC has initiated several activities in recent years to drive a shift in the agency's culture to be more receptive to innovation and transformation.

One of the primary activities to support and sustain long-term innovation at the NRC is InnovateNRC. This initiative began as a staff-led effort, called the Idea Greenhouse, to collect and refine staff recommendations to improve NRC operations. The Idea Greenhouse was implemented via pilot projects in various NRC offices with great success. As a result, an Agency Innovation Forum was officially established in April 2017. The collective program was later renamed InnovateNRC to incorporate all of the agency's innovation programs under one umbrella.

The NRC learned many lessons from InnovateNRC and saw a need to continue to enhance our approach to innovation. InnovateNRC 2.0 is one of the transformation initiatives and is the NRC's formal innovation program. Powering the 2.0 version of the program is an integrated, collaborative innovation platform called IdeaScale. The IdeaScale platform was provided in response to staff requests, from the Futures Jam, for a virtual, real-time way to collaborate and brainstorm across the agency. Two main features of IdeaScale are the Success Gallery and Challenge Campaign. The InnovateNRC 2.0 program and IdeaScale enables NRC employees to collaborate by submitting innovative ideas, finding transformative solutions through crowd-sourcing challenges, and showcasing innovation occurring throughout the agency.

purple outline of a clapperboard on white backgroundBehind-the-Scenes: InnovateNRC 2.0 Team

thumbnail of opening frame of NRC Innovate NRC 2 0 Team video

If you want to learn more about the InnovateNRC 2.0 Team and what they have accomplished, check out this video.



In June 2020, the agency held an Innovate-a-thon to officially launch the InnovateNRC 2.0 program and the IdeaScale platform. During the Innovate-a-thon, crowdsourcing campaigns were launched so staff could offer ideas on ways to improve some of our existing processes and programs. The crowdsourcing challenges received ideas related to improvements in the resident inspector program, use of agile teams, staff uses of licensee information for regulatory decision-making, and development of documents and concurrence processes.  These crowdsourcing challenges received over 50 ideas and more than 200 comments, all from NRC staff seeking innovative ways to be more efficient and effective in meeting our important safety and security mission. 

Employees from across the agency, at all levels and in all fields contributed ideas, solutions and potential areas for improvement. Essentially, we leveled the playing field by allowing each employee to freely contribute to open discussions on ways we can improve how we work.

In June 2021, the agency held an Innovation Celebration that highlighted the importance of innovation as part of the agency’s transformation efforts to become a modern, risk-informed regulator. The focus of the celebration was to connect, inspire, and educate staff to continue leveraging the IdeaScale Success Gallery and Challenge Campaign features. The agency introduced new features such as the Innovations In-Progress Gallery, where ongoing or planned innovative efforts may be captured. The celebration also highlighted training on using innovation tools. To date, the Success Gallery has more than 500 innovation success stories that span topics such as virtual onboarding to effective virtual public meetings. Implementation of these innovations has provided greater efficiencies in how we work. Crowdsourcing challenge campaigns have proven to be a very effective way to find optimized solutions through staff ideas and comments to real-world challenges. The 19 challenge campaigns issued since the launch of the InnovateNRC 2.0 program have addressed a diverse set of topical areas ranging from improvements to branding and culture, work products, rulemaking, knowledge management, information technology, and regulatory programs. In addition, ideas discovered through challenge campaigns have been implemented and have resulted in greater efficiencies in how we perform our important safety and security mission for the American public.

Additional overarching benefits of the IdeaScale platform and the InnovateNRC2.0 program include fostering cross-agency collaboration by enabling open, free flowing sharing of ideas which enables more informed decision-making. This approach also increases employee engagement, minimizes duplication of effort, and contributes to building trust within the agency – a key factor in realizing NRC’s ideal culture.

Check out these videos to learn more information about our InnovateNRC 2.0 Program and the IdeaScale Success Gallery and Challenge Campaign features:

thumbnail of opening frame of NRC 2021 Program Overview video 2021 Program Overview
thumbnail of opening frame of NRC Success Gallery Highlights video Success Gallery Highlights
thumbnail of opening frame of NRC Challenge Campaign Highlights video Challenge Campaign Highlights

Challenge Campaign Success Story

The Evidence Act was signed into law in January 2019 and requires agencies to evaluate and rethink how they currently plan and organize data management, data access functions, and evidence building. The Evidence Act requires the NRC to develop, review and update an evidence-building plan annually. An evidence-building plan describes how an organization will continuously evaluate its performance and prioritize its actions to improve effectiveness and efficiency by evaluating the right things, gathering the right data and information (evidence), and making the right decisions. In addition, an evidence-building plan identifies and addresses priority questions, which are questions relevant for performance, programmatic, operational, regulatory, or policy decision-making across the entire agency.

To engage the staff, the Office of the Executive Director for Operations (OEDO) sponsored an agency-wide challenge campaign, using the IdeaScale platform. This challenge campaign consisted of three phases and engaged both staff and senior leadership in the different phases. A short introductory video explaining priority questions, their purpose, and how they relate to the strategic plan goals and objectives was used to provide context and details of the challenge campaign. In phase one, the campaign was open for staff to submit their priority questions and over 40 priority questions were submitted by the staff. In phase two, the Evidence-Building and Evaluation team refined the 40 priority questions submitted, combined duplicates, and republished the questions for staff voting. Over 450 votes were tallied in phase two. The team further refined the top voted priority questions and provided the questions for review by the Data Governance Board. In phase three of the campaign, the Data Governance Board used IdeaScale to vote on the priority questions received from the public (during the public comment period on the Development of NRC's Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022 through 2026) and the staff. The Data Governance Board endorsed the priority questions to be included in the agency evidence-building plan.

Using the challenge campaign approach for the development of the priority questions exceeded OEDO expectations and resulted in many secondary benefits in addition to achieving the goal of developing priority questions for strategic planning. By tapping into the collective wisdom of the NRC staff, we were able to not only develop priority questions, but also identify areas where more awareness through communication is needed.

To view the progress on answering the priority questions, please view the Evidence Building Activities webpage.

Innovations to Enhance Our Decision-making

Over the past year, we have been strengthening our innovation muscle to enhance our regulatory decision-making. Many office- and regional-specific activities and projects are using innovative approaches to implement our safety and security mission. For example, the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation EMBARK Venture Studio continues to serve as an innovation catalyst and seeks innovative ways to streamline work processes within the Reactor Safety Program. EMBARK is celebrating the release of the new Operating Reactor Analytics public website. The agency continues to transform the way we use data to understand and assess licensee performance. Now we can share this knowledge with the public with an interactive site where users can filter and sort results by site, Region, or utility. This project provides an overview of plant performance, with the Reactor Oversight Process explained in plain language, to make it easy for members of the public to understand how findings and performance indicators relate to our assessment. We can use this tool to review plant performance over time, compare results across different cornerstones, and find more details on findings with direct links to inspection reports.

By applying innovative approaches to how we implement our safety and security mission, we're able to better serve the American public. From developing a regulatory framework to license new and advanced reactors to streamlining our rulemaking processes for greater transparency with the public, we've been enhancing our risk-informed decision-making.

purple outline of a clapperboard on white backgroundBehind-the-Scenes: Innovations Enhancing Our Decision-making.

To learn more information about how we’re using innovative approaches to enhance our decision-making, check out these videos:
 

Current Accident Tolerant Fuel Environment
Innovation in Acquisitions
Small Business Program
Emergency Response Operations
The Future is International
Rulemaking Innovations
NRC Preparedness for Review of Advance Manufacturing Technologies
Power Reactor Decommissioning Process Enhancements

Using Signposts and Markers for Future Decisions Regarding Our Work

The Signposts and Markers transformation initiative team focused its efforts on expanding the work done under "The Dynamic Futures for NRC Mission Areas" report and identified signposts and markers for external factors that would have the greatest effect on the agency's future. The initiative team identified 39 signposts and markers that will help us be better prepared for future challenges and workforce needs, including developing staffing and budget plans and metrics that are based on relevant data

purple outline of a clapperboard on white backgroundBehind-the-Scenes: Signposts and Markers Team

thumbnail of opening frame of NRC Signposts and Markers Team video
If you want to learn more about the Signposts and Markers Team and what they have accomplished, check out this video.


 

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, October 13, 2021