Amey, working on behalf of their clients, Kent County Council and Staffordshire County Council, have secured £4m of funding by DfT and ADEPT as part of their SMART Places programme. Working alongside UI, Keele University and the Transport Systems Catapult, the partnership will be setting up two Live Labs to research and trial new technology innovations, which can be adopted in the local road network.

Key to this approach is working with SMEs, who have established new highways products and services that now need further development and testing in a live environment to determine their commercial viability. Ultimately, these projects will be focused on a variety of outcomes including improved customer experience, better real-time understanding of every highways asset as well as the optimisation of each asset, amongst other outcomes the projects will deliver.

In Staffordshire, the partnership will be supporting projects in the early stages of their development, through testing at a private living laboratory at Keele University. A control centre will also be installed by UI to manage the data and asset information, and a front-end platform will be created to enable each SME to understand the outputs from their innovation to support ongoing development of their product or service. With the partnership, SMEs and technology all available at the same site, the new technology can be tested immediately to encourage changes to be made quickly and speed up the development process.

The partnership will be undertaking a similar project in Kent, but will be testing any developments on the live road network rather than a private testing facility, such as Keele University. These projects may be further through their development lifecycle and this approach provides a safe environment to test whether these projects can successfully deliver a more efficient highways maintenance service.

David Ogden, Business Director for Local Highways at Amey, said: “We’re delighted to be awarded this funding alongside Kent County Council, Staffordshire County Council and our partners, UI and Transport Systems Catapult. The highways industry is developing at pace as it looks to adopt the latest technology and try new ways of working, and the ADEPT SMART Places funding is enabling many of us in the industry to invest further into challenging the way we’ve always done things. Working collaboratively across the industry, and harnessing innovations from SMEs, we can really move things forward so we’re equally pleased that everyone involved will be sharing the outcomes of their projects with each other. This will enable the whole industry, as well as the communities we serve, to all benefit from the outcomes of the Live Labs.”

The DfT and ADEPT have allocated £23m to fund research and trials into technology innovations that can be collaboratively shared across the highways industry. Seven winning bids in the SMART Places project will now go forward into Live Labs, where new highways products and services will be put through real-world tests to see which emerging innovations provide long-term solutions to improve the condition of UK roads.

Hannah Bartram, Chief Operating Officer for ADEPT said: “ADEPT would like to congratulate all seven winning bids. We are excited to see how these projects develop over the next two years. The decision-making process has been exceptionally difficult, with all the submissions of a high calibre and exploring truly innovative ideas.

“I want to thank DfT for supporting this project, which aims to ensure our local roads are fit for the future. I also want to thank our corporate partners, without whom the SMART Places programme could not have happened.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘Potholes are the number one enemy for road users and this government is looking at numerous ways to keep our roads in the best condition.

‘Today’s trials will see how new technologies work in the real world to ensure our roads are built for the 21st century.’

Each project will last two years with the aim of introducing digital innovation outside of the strategic road network.

Click here for the ADEPT brochure on the successful bids.

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