Celebrating HHS Trailblazers. HHS Innovates identifies and celebrates internal innovation by our employees.  The award program was launched in 2010 and developed as part of HHS’s Open Government efforts.

HHS Innovates is aimed at building a culture of innovation at the Department through facilitating the exchange of innovative ideas.  This contest recognizes and rewards good ideas, and also helps promote them across the Department. To date, HHS employees have submitted nominations of innovations for nearly 500 exciting new staff-driven innovations, and our employees have cast over 60,000 votes during the community-voting phase.

Purpose of HHS Innovates

As part of the mission of the HHS IDEA Lab to identify, enable and catalyze innovation and experimentation, HHS Innovates celebrates those HHS employees who think different.  The celebration of those employees who adopt new methodologies, are collaborative and who are creative in problem solving are helping spread culture change and build a network of innovators and experimenters internal to the Department.

History of HHS Innovates

Launched in 2010 by the HHS Innovation Council, HHS Innovates has undergone six rounds of competition to date.  HHS employees have submitted nominations of innovations for nearly 500 exciting new staff-driven innovations, and over 60,000 votes have been cast by our employees during the community voting phase. The opportunity for open voting on the selection of winners by the public brings opportunities for the Department to engage with the public to learn about innovation activities at HHS.  These competitions and employee prizes have demonstrated how HHS employees have overcome resource constraints, complicated schedules, and complex organizational dynamics to provide creative, replicable and sustainable innovations that demonstrate outstanding leadership and promising results.


All HHS employees are eligible to apply for HHS Innovates. HHS employees are allowed to submit individual or team nominations (though innovation teams may include non-HHS employees) to the contest. Self nominations are allowed.

Eligible innovation categories include, but are not limited to: process, technology, relationship/partnership, communication, workforce development, and sustainability innovations.  Other types of innovations will also be considered.

Eligible innovations must have been piloted or implemented in the last 30 months.

Innovations must have generated significant innovation success; OR generated limited/early success and have given HHS new knowledge that can be used for future improvement.

For purposes of this contest, innovation is defined as the introduction of something entirely new (e.g., a product, process, system, service, or business model) or an unusual application of an existing tool used to improve HHS’s ability to accomplish its mission.

Reviewing Criteria and Selection Process

Proposals submitted to HHS Innovates are evaluated by a sub-group of the HHS Innovation Council which select finalists based on the following criteria:

  • Quality of the application;
  • Importance of the innovation to the Division/Staff Division and HHS mission;
  • Novelty of the innovation;
  • Impact on HHS and Operating Division/Staff Division mission and target populations;
  • Usefulness of the lessons learned within the Division/Staff Division; and
  • Potential for transferability and scalability across HHS and beyond.

Winners are then selected by the Health and Human Services Secretary.

How to Apply

We are not accepting applications at this time. But stay up-to-date on when we are accepting applications by

Application Period

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Contact Information

Elizabeth[dot] Kittrie @ hhs [dot] gov HHS Innovates Yammer Group (Available only to HHS employees)

Frequently Asked Questions

How are winners recognized?

All finalists will be invited to an employee recognition ceremony.  Up to three innovations will be recognized as the “Secretary’s Top Picks” per award round.  The Secretary’s Picks will be given cash prizes of up to $2,500 per team member for a maximum of seven members per team (note: only HHS employees and HHS Commissioned Corps personnel are eligible for such prizes).  The Secretary may also recognize up to three “Honorable Mentions.”  The honorable mentions will not receive cash prizes but will be invited to participate in the ceremony and will receive public recognition.