What does equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) mean to you? asks Rachel Billington Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I), Europe at AECOM. Is it a more diverse workforce? Is it flexible working? Getting students interested in STEM? A bid requirement? Or is it something that’s for the human resources department to deal with?
From my perspective, it’s not one of the above, it’s all of the above and so much more. Yes, it means recruiting a more diverse workforce, it means rounder educational opportunities and it means there are some legal obligations around it too as part of the Equality Act 2010. And any of us involved in bids know ED&I is nowadays routinely mandated in procurement.
But the responsibility for a workforce where everyone has fair opportunity, which is diverse and where people feel included, is also down to every single one of us. In an organisation where ED&I truly works, the principles are integrated both at a corporate and personal level.
Many people think ED&I is about celebrating difference and events, and this is really important, but there is more to it if you want to really bring about cultural change. This means at a corporate level ensuring a robust and effective strategy, with supporting governance, to encourage ED&I. This not only locks-in good practice, it sets a precedent about the values of that company, which can cascade down from management to staff. But how well does industry do this?
When we’re thinking about ourselves and our impact on ED&I, it involves taking a step back and thinking about what we do and how our own biases can impact others. Whether that’s an off-the-cuff comment or a decision about staffing.
On a personal level, the issue can sometimes include behaviours we’re not aware of. At AECOM I recently held a webinar on microaggressions and the negative impact on the way they make people feel in the workplace. Have you ever been in a situation where the only woman in a meeting is automatically asked to take notes or a person from a different ethnicity being asked where they’re really from? Some of these microaggressions don’t come from malice, but how can we deal with these situations better? How can we raise awareness?
I believe a good place to start is to become comfortable in having difficult discussions. One way we have done this at AECOM is by launching our employee resource groups, or ERGs. By sharing experiences, ideas and opinions, we can better understand why ED&I is important to the industry, but also understand what challenges the industry and our people face when dealing with the issues which arise from this.
It’s not a new issue, so we need to take stock and ask ourselves whether we’ve made tangible progress and what has worked well. And how well are we engaging leaders and holding them to account for delivering meaningful change in industry?
Rachel Billington is Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I), Europe at AECOM. She is convening a panel at Highways UK on 3 November to explore these issues further and will be joined by Ron Calderwood-Duncan – Head of EDI & Engagement at National Highways, Jyoti Sehdev – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Costain, and Rory Poole, Roads Sector Leader, UK & Ireland at AECOM.
Road use charging is back on the agenda. While the economic and environmental arguments stack up, public acceptability will be a significant challenge. Getting this right is important and the infrastructure sector, says Stantec’s Dougie McDonald, must actively engage with Government to influence policy development
Over the past 50 years there has been extensive research and assessment of the benefits and challenges of different approaches to directly charging for road use in the UK. Until relatively recently, the London Congestion Charge and M6toll provided the only two examples of implementation of large-scale schemes, other than estuarial crossings.
Now road user charging (RUC) is back on the agenda, this time due to the emergence of a roads policy ‘trilemma’ for the Government to solve. This consists of the need to decarbonise our roads network to meet climate change commitments, a potential £40billion blackhole in Government finances from the associated mass adoption of electric vehicles and fuel tax loss, and the ongoing necessity of supporting economic growth through free-flowing road-network connectivity—particularly as we seek to close the lost economic performance from the pandemic.
Current policy proposals can comfortably address particular aspects of the trilemma; however, it is likely that all three issues will need to be addressed over time. As a result, there is renewed interest in RUC in the UK and its role on our future road systems.
Applying RUC anywhere comes with significant known challenges. We have to consider the best technology, which parts of the network it will be applied to, and different approaches between cars and heavy goods. We must assess the impact on different social groups, particularly low-income, marginalised groups, and those with few options other than a car and travel at certain times of the day. RUC schemes collect a large amount of data on the travel habits of millions of people—meaning privacy is a challenge. And finally timing and transition are key as the Government has set ambitious targets for a net zero UK.
Taken together, these challenges all lead towards the issue of acceptability whereby the public feel confident and willing to use toll systems.
Trials in the United States have shown the importance of equity and privacy arrangements, and that rural, low income groups and certain ethnicities may be more difficult to convince of the merits of RUC. Lessons from schemes in Europe and Asia/Pacific show the importance of demonstrating how funds raised can support public transport improvements or environmental gains. These schemes show that the technology is ready for RUC implementation and that “back office” account management arrangements are important.
In the UK, an upgrade programme has begun to improve the tolling system on the M6toll, introducing new digital systems and enabling broader interactions with the user base who complete 18 million journeys annually, or around 50,000 every day.
Public acceptability of a new RUC system will be a significant challenge, so the infrastructure sector must actively engage with Government to influence policy development.
Dougie McDonald is Stantec’s UK Regional Director for Transport. He is speaking with Andy Cliffe, CEO of Midlands Expressway, in a session at Highways UK at 9.30am on 4 November which will further explore current trends in road user charging and lessons learned. Highways UK takes place at the NEC, Birmingham on 3/4 November. It is free to attend, register now!
Covid-19 has thrown the issue of workplace health into the spotlight. But in the highways sector, which has a heady cocktail of exposure hazards from manual handling to bitumen fumes, the control of workplace health risks has long been the Cinderella to accident prevention. Steve Perkins explains why we must focus much more on the health risks and points to pioneering work with Connect Plus and Highways England
The Health and Safety Executive estimates that annually 13,000 workers die from work-related (non-COVID) disease across all sectors in Great Britain. The total figure for accident fatalities is around 110-150 each year. So 99% health and 1% safety.
Of that total, construction alone accounts for 3,500 occupational cancer deaths, plus 5,500 new cases of occupational cancer each year. At any one time there are some 81,000 construction workers with work-related ill-health.
Highways accounts for a significant proportion of construction and has the usual cocktail of exposure hazards such as dust, noise, vibration, diesel exhaust, solvent and welding fumes, manual handling and solar radiation. And added to that of course, large amounts of bitumen fume.
According the Centre for Disease Control in the USA, an epidemic refers to an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of an infectious disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area. And a pandemic refers an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.
A key difference with work-related diseases is that generally they’re non-communicable i.e. you develop them through exposure to hazardous substances/processes and they’re not transmissible person-to-person. Strictly speaking epidemic and pandemic relate to infectious diseases. But, indulge me for a moment and assume we can apply them to non-communicable diseases as well.
Another difference is that work-related diseases generally have no cure. There’s no vaccine for silicosis or noise induced hearing loss.
The global picture for work-related fatalities is a little different to the UK with an estimated 2.3M disease deaths each year and 0.3M accident deaths (87% health and 13% safety). Although if we looked only at industrialised countries it would be similar proportions to the UK.
By any measure of scale this is a pandemic.
Firstly, unlike COVD, work-related diseases develop slowly, usually over a number of years and sometimes over a number of decades. This means that workers suffering these conditions retire early and die at home or in hospital or care homes. They are no longer ‘on the books’ of the employer who exposed them. That’s rather less visible than a workplace accident fatality isn’t it?
In fact HSE estimates that of the £16.2Bn cost of all work related injury and ill health, 66% is due to ill-health (and that only covers new cases of disease each year, not the burden due to past-exposure). Of that £16.2Bn employers pick up about 20%, government pays about 22% and individuals and families account for the remaining 56%. Not quite ‘risk-creator pays’ is it?
Secondly, workplace health hazards often go unrecognised and/or unobserved. Most people would probably recognise the risk of a fall from height quite easily, but do they appreciate the serious risks to lung health of dusts, fumes, fibres and vapours? We’ve found that in construction there is certainly an awareness and understanding gap to bridge when it comes to health hazards.
Steve Perkins MA CDir FIoD FInstP AFOH is managing director of Steve Perkins Associates Limited
Highways UK Conference Panel
For this year’s Highways UK at the NEC on 3/4 November, we’ve assembled a high level panel of industry leaders and thinkers to discuss the issues raised by the ‘Hidden Pandemic’ in the context of highways and how we might begin to tackle the risks. Steve will be chairing the panel and highlighting some of the innovative work on health protection undertaken on the M25 in partnership with Connect Plus and Highways England. He will be joined by:
Andy Dean, Chief Executive, Connect Plus M25
Nicola Bell, Regional Director South East, Highways England
Dylan Roberts, Health, Safety and Wellbeing Director, Skanska
Alison Margary, President, BOHS – The Chartered society for Worker Health Protection
Subsidising low emission vehicles is creating an increasingly large hole in HM Treasury’s coffers. And with the expected rapid transition to electric vehicles we’ll be talking serious money within a few years. RAC Foundation Director Steve Gooding asks whether now is the time to consider a new system of taxing motorists, but from a rather different perspective to that traditionally associated with road pricing.
If you were to ask the Chancellor whether he is a spender or a saver – that question so favoured by the money sections of weekend newspapers – he would, whatever his natural inclination, have to admit that on the evidence of the past twelve months and this week’s Budget, he is much more the former than the latter. The record shows that Rishi Sunak has, faced with the covid crisis, been in ‘spend-spend-spend’ mode in an attempt to prevent the total collapse of the UK economy.
But there is another generous policy being pursued by Mr Sunak which whilst not yet on the scale of the viral bailout is set to cause him an additional financial headache in the not too distant future. And that is the subsidising of ‘green’ vehicles.
Analysis by the RAC Foundation shows that when a pure electric car is purchased instead of a petrol car then HM Treasury loses, on average, around £897 of revenue in the first 12 months after registration. If the purchase of an electric vehicle was in place of a diesel car then the amount would be £1,139.
The missing money comprises forgone fuel duty (currently 57.95p for every litre of petrol and diesel sold), VAT on both the duty and the underlying product price of the fuel, and the initial Vehicle Excise Duty payment – or showroom tax as it is colloquially called – which is emissions-based and is generally higher in the first year.
With the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders forecasting pure plug-in electric vehicle sales in the region of 175,000 in the coming twelve months the switch to green vehicles this year is set to cost the Exchequer another £175 million.
And don’t forget the purchase subsidy the government currently makes available for most new electric vehicles via the plug-in car and van grants, and the money it provides to help individuals and businesses install electric charge points.
Despite all that you could argue that the resulting figures are still relatively small fry compared to the £27 billion that would (if we weren’t all ‘locked-down’) be collected annually via fuel duty from the more than 30 million internal combustion engined cars that are on the UK’s roads. Even though sales have been picking up for electric vehicles compared with petrol and diesel models they still make up only a small fraction of the total vehicle parc.
So for the next year or two the Chancellor might be down only a few hundred million pounds of fuel duty income. But the Chancellor’s headache of how to fund the government’s spending commitments will get markedly worse as a consequence of last year’s decision to announce a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, just under a decade from now. £27 billion of income evaporating before their eyes is surely enough to make even the calmest of Chancellors sit up and take notice. As the saying goes, a billion here and a billion there and suddenly you’re talking real money.
Yet if the Chancellor is to retain his income from drivers – which is a choice, but one that, not being much of a gambler, I would confidently bet on, then long term he needs to consider a whether a new system of taxation might do the trick.
Step forward the proponents of road pricing. Now there’s a term to conjur with.
It pays to be very, very clear what exactly we mean when we say ‘road pricing’. At its simplest we might be referring to a tolled road. Or, next up, a scheme to charge motorists a set amount for each road-mile travelled over a variety of roads. But for economists, the object of desire is the far more sophisticated, and complicated, version that adjusts the amount payable in relation to when and where the mileage is done, reflecting, it says here, the external social marginal cost that trip imposes (i.e. by causing congestion and polluting the environment).
The Foundation previously nailed its colours to the mast of creating a distance charge, supporting, as we did, Gary Raccuja’s winning entry in the 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize. The proposition, developed in answer to the question of whether there might be a better way to pay for roads, advocated a system where per-mile fees would be applied, with the option of their being collected via drivers’ insurance premiums, allied to the earmarking of a set proportion of income to be reserved for spending on roads. But that is probably not the question foremost in the current Chancellor’s mind. Spending on roads is just one of a mighty long list of things pleading for his largesse.
Of course, the Chancellor does have the option of deciding that the growing hole in his finances is actually a price worth paying when set against the vast benefits of saving the planet with the help of green vehicles. He could set a long-term policy that taxes low-emission vehicles significantly less than more polluting legacy vehicles we’ve been used to driving, to give the growth of the electric car market a major boost.
But if, as seems likely, the question the Chancellor is asking is how best to ensure motorists continue to cough up money to pay for roads, and schools, and hospitals, then we would counsel making simplicity the watchword . The scale of the task involved in introducing a new tax payable by tens of millions of people on a variable basis set so as to raise billions of income, replacing a system in fuel duty that has the lowest cost of collection of any tax, ever, should not be underestimated. Not impossible. After all, scientists have just put a vehicle onto the surface of Mars. But, like Mars, the risk register for such an initiative would, we think, be a vibrant, glowing bright red.
If driving is to continue to come at a fiscal cost to the motorist then we’d advise the Chancellor to focus on those vehicles that would otherwise be getting a free pass – a subset of the parc not the whole fleet. Not easy when for environmental reasons the imperative is to encourage their take-up. The risk of sending mixed messages is high. But so is the risk of encouraging electric vehicle take-up on a false prospectus.
If a road user charge is on the horizon for zero emission vehicles then working through the detail of how and by whom that charge would be set and collected should surely start right now.
Steve Gooding is Director of the RAC Foundation and a confirmed speaker at Highways UK running at the NEC, Birmingham on 3/4 November 2021
This year’s National Pothole Day secured coverage across national print and broadcast media, putting a much-needed spotlight on the worsening pothole funding crisis. Paul Fleetham, Managing Director of Tarmac Contracting argues that even in the throes of Covid-19, National Pothole Day still matters.
As we all dig deep in lockdown 3.0, you may feel there are more things to worry about at the moment than potholes. I agree that a surging pandemic and too many people suffering does not compare.
But even in the throes of Covid-19, National Pothole Day still matters because the state of our local roads has national and local social and economic importance.
Well maintained local roads underpin our communities and economies, they represent 98 per cent of the network and are used in almost every journey. They help support improved social outcomes – allowing for faster and more reliable journeys, boosting local businesses and serving all road users. A good quality local road is also central to encouraging people to take greener forms of transport such as cycling and buses. Getting our roads up to a high standard is part of building back better.
As we make the case for more investment in local roads, here’s a few additional thoughts from me to consider at the start of 2021.
Investment in local roads is being made but long term certainty to plan is key
The Spending Review committed £1.125 billion of local roads maintenance funding in 2021-22, including £500 million for the Potholes Fund to fix potholes and resurface roads. This is welcome but it’s critical that these pledges are met with longer-term commitments and sustained periods of ring-fenced investment, as most of all local councils need certainty to plan and implement essential maintenance programmes. Only a complete asset management approach to our highways will deliver the improvements that are needed and ensure that the local road network is no longer treated as a second-class asset.
Devolution will give metro mayors powers and they must support local roads
For metro mayors it’s a case of when, and not if, infrastructure powers will be given to them. The National Infrastructure Strategy unveiled late last year is supportive of greater infrastructure powers for mayors, but their hands are tied until Government sets out expanded devolution arrangements in the English Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper. When this happens there will be a good opportunity for metro mayors to invest in high quality local roads which support other infrastructure and development plans across city regions.
Investing in the local road asset delivers an economic return too
Against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the undoubted challenges to communities and the economy, I’m a great believer that UK infrastructure delivery and particularly highways projects can support economic recovery. Investing in local roads provides an immediate economic stimulus to local economies – this is shovel ready work that is not waiting for planning red tape.
We need to always think about our roads in terms of social outcomes
Intelligent local authority clients assemble condition data but also look at this information in the context of assessing the social impact of failing roads across their network. We’ve previously worked with councils where they’ve made the case for more investment in the asset based on a matrix of social impacts. Ultimately they showed how a well-maintained network was essential to underpinning their wider goal of delivering better social outcomes for its citizens. Councils are facing an incredibly uncertain time but there’s scope to do more assessment like this to help build the investment case.
National Pothole Day in 2021 was very different to previous years and there are other issues that are greatly affecting our way of life. But the economic and social value of this asset that we all depend on should not be forgotten.
In support of National Pothole Day Tarmac has launched a new online guide to pothole repair. It includes details of award-winning asphalts such as Ultipatch Sitemix, winner of Highways Industry Product of the Year in 2018. It also includes repair materials designed specifically to cure and harden more quickly in wet conditions, making them ideal for the British weather.
Read Tarmac’s guide to pothole repairs
Paul Fleetham is managing director of Tarmac Contracting. Tarmac is newly confirmed as a Platinum sponsor at this year’s Highways UK taking place at the NEC Birmingham on 3-4 November.
Feras Alshaker, Deputy Director Roads, Office of Road and Rail, ponders how 2020 has impacted on its role as Highways Monitor and points to key performance criteria in RIS 2, including a particular focus on proposed efficiency gains
I took up my current role with ORR in January and there’s no doubt that 2020 has been an extraordinary and challenging in ways that I did not foresee. The coronavirus outbreak has impacted everyday life, how we work, and of course how our road network is used.
In April, the start of the second road funding period was overshadowed by the pandemic but as we transitioned from the first five-year road period to the second, it has, in some regards made identifying the impacts on monitoring Highways England’s delivery clearer and in turn how we hold them to account.
For example, our framework for holding Highways England to account is flexible, and we use this flexibility to take into account the extraordinary situation the company faces and focus activity in the most proportionate and efficient way possible.
Highways England was set up in 2015 as a result of the UK government’s programme for roads reform, and the ORR took on its scrutiny role – as Highways Monitor. The reform brought an unprecedented level of investment planning and government’s promise of secure funding.
In July this year we published our assessment of Highways England’s performance and delivery of its investment plan. This looked back at how Highways England performed in Road Period 1, and what the whole roads reform process has achieved so far.
We concluded that over the last five years Highways England made good progress and we have seen it meeting almost all of the targets it was set. It marked the end of the first road period and I am pleased that we have pushed Highways England hard to deliver on safety, efficiency and meeting the needs of road users.
We, as Highways Monitor, played a vital role to improve the transparency and quality of Highways England’s financial reporting – with the company delivering £1.4bn efficiency savings over five years. We also pursued a backlog of structures inspections, as well as relentlessly monitoring Highways England’s work to improve road users’ experience following aspects of poor performance.
Our assessment also found that the company must continue to improve safety for all road users, further involve its customers in planning and decision making, and work even more efficiently over the second road period.
In August, the company published its strategic business plan and delivery plan for the second road period. In these documents, Highways England sets out how it is planning to deliver what government specified in RIS2 – the second road investment strategy covering 2020-25.
We have been involved at different stages in the RIS-setting process, primarily though our ‘Efficiency Review’ of an earlier version of Highways England’s plans, which we published earlier this year.
The scope of our efficiency review was to assess the level of challenge and deliverability in the company’s draft plans, with a particular focus on proposed efficiency gains. Those plans had good supporting evidence in many areas and represented a real improvement on the plans produced for the first road period.
It is encouraging that much has remained from earlier versions, including a strong focus on safely operating, maintaining and renewing the existing network. It is also good to see that the recommendations from our review, particularly the scope for Highways England to deliver £600m of additional cost reductions and efficiency savings, have been carried through into Highways England’s final strategic business plan and delivery plan for road period 2.
However, Highways England’s challenge is getting bigger, as it needs to deliver a larger programme of works as set out in the Government’s 2020 Road Investment Strategy, and we will continue to provide close scrutiny. At an appropriate point Highways England, the Department for Transport and ORR will need to jointly take stock of the package for both the remainder of the road period and beyond in light of the pandemic.
Author: Jon Cole, Head of Pavement Efficiency and Productivity, Highways England
Our pavement efficiency journey started with a workshop in September 2015 in recognition that the way we delivered pavement needed to contribute significantly to the RIS1 capital efficiency KPI (target £1.2BN). Representatives from our Operations Directorate and our supply chain were present, and this set the context and agenda for how the Pavement Efficiency Group or PEG, as it affectionately became known, would work to challenge both Highways England and the supply chain to recognise efficiency opportunities through the delivery of pavement works.
Our story is one of technical excellence and true collaboration with the supply chain to enable pavement efficiencies across the different delivery programmes of Highways England; and, to align their goals to the safety, customer and delivery imperatives of Highway England.
As a delivery team we’ve tried to think of this as a change programme, we always knew that the technical side was only part of what we had to deliver; engaging with delivery teams, and especially designers, to buy in to what we were proposing was the challenge. We’ve occasionally found it difficult to get passed traditional ways of thinking and this has shaped our engagement, making it simple, visual and impactful so our messages were clear and connected to the overall objective of achieving the challenge of KPI7.
We’ve created technical content in an engaging way through digital integration that forms the basis of our engagement approach and we have embraced different media to share our message and ideas across the entire pavement delivery community. We’ve used lean tools to help our outward facing engagement and planning and adopted simple, visual and engaging content that is easy to understand and implement. Our single source of content is hosted in Prezi and can be accessed by anyone; it is live and periodically reviewed and updated.
Our pavement efficiency levers have been tailored to align with the definition of an efficiency in the Efficiency and Inflation Monitoring Manual which governs our work and we have developed 37 levers that can be used either in isolation or in combination depending on the project or delivery function. Working jointly with SES from an early stage was key to the long-term success of PEG, to ensure that they were supportive of what we were promoting. As a result, we structured the project with our lead technical expertise partnered with SES gaining their strategic alignment.
To promote the levers, the team has embedded itself in the various efficiency meetings around the country, and across all delivery programmes, gaining a unique insight into the different challenges of individual projects and programmes; actively sharing knowledge across them. This had led to cross programme learning and the adoption of several efficiency levers in different programmes.
The pavement efficiency technical partner has engaged directly with over 50 delivery teams across Major Projects and Operations programmes. Part of our engagement is to discover best practice and we’ve taken the best practice from Operations and shared it with Major Projects and vice versa whilst adding these ideas to our toolkit.
To date £352m pavement efficiencies have been level 2 assured with a further c£70m awaiting assurance. These efficiencies are evidenced through project level efficiency registers and validated by the Central Efficiency Group. In exceeding the challenging target of £350m in this RIS period, positions our team well to continue sharing best practices in pavement delivery to also continue meeting the efficiency targets of future Road Investment periods, having created a legacy of continuous improvement.
Jon Cole, Head of Pavement Efficiency and Productivity, Highways England
Jon along with James Burdall, Associate Director of AECOM, will explore some of the technical innovations achieved through PEG within the Civils and Materials Dome at 16.30 on 6 November. Additionally Jon will address the process of achieving a step change, at the Burges Salmon stage at 13.30 on 7 November
Author: Richard Bowen, Highways Stakeholder and Public Liaison Manager, Mott MacDonald
As Highways England builds on strong foundations as a construction-led organisation, focusing on the needs and satisfaction of its customers, their supply chain partners are also being asked to make customers a priority in all the design and build work they undertake. It’s clear that a customer revolution is underway at Highways England.
Its Customer imperative has come to the fore and improving customer satisfaction is a priority. Broadly defining customers as road users and communities located close to the Strategic Road Network, Highways England has committed to firm customer principles. Their ambition is to improve customer satisfaction across a range of areas, including improving journey time reliability, displaying better road signage and addressing customer frustrations caused by roadworks.
Each year Highways England reviews their customers’ priorities to ensure they are addressing common frustrations. The expectation is that supply chain partners will align themselves by developing and implementing design and build solutions to actively target the sources of customer complaints.
It’s a tough ask of a supply chain that is deeply rooted in an engineering culture guided by practical design standards and building regulations. Highways England is asking searching questions of supply chain applicants, such as how they will adapt their cultures so that customer requirements are part of everything they do. It’s turned things upside down and forced their supply chain to look both outwards and inwards at activities that haven’t changed or been questioned in a generation.
As suppliers to Highways England, Mott MacDonald has had to consider how we have worked previously and how we can transform our culture successfully to provide highways solutions and services that are not just buildable and provide value for money, but also contribute directly towards improved customer satisfaction. It is also about helping to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by embedding them into our activities, such as supporting economic growth and improved competitiveness across all regions (goal 8) and delivering resilient infrastructure and innovative solutions to maximise value from public investment (goal 9).
We started by considering how we engage effectively with Highways England customers to gain a breadth of insight that is representative of road users and communities. Always more difficult to engage effectively with road users, a notoriously itinerant and time-constrained customer group, targeted communications channels and messages are needed to be successful! Rarely a one size fits all methodology, each campaign requires creative thinking to be employed.
A recent Mott MacDonald campaign made use of Highways England’s Twitter feed and eye-catching graphics to capture the attention of drivers in Kent. When we analysed the feedback, we were pleased to see that 80% of the responses were received online, largely from customers that identified themselves primarily as road users. We were provided with insights that are very different from the viewpoints often heard at local community events.
While it’s incredibly helpful to gain customer insights that represent a broader range of interests, we need to ensure that those viewpoints are validated by more influential stakeholder groups. By discussing insights with the likes of local authorities, local politicians and community groups, we can establish understanding and develop effective relationships through which a highways scheme can be more easily progressed.
This is the point at which we need to look at the other side of the coin. To ensure validated customer insights can be incorporated into scheme designs and builds, as a supply chain we need to focus inwards. Nobody’s suggesting there’s a reason to rip up the existing rulebooks, but we can design and build better roads by embedding validated customer insights into design and construction. Positive design interventions involving safety are long established within our industry and we need to think the same way about customers during planning and delivery stages.
How we manage roadworks is a good example. Consistently cited by customers as a main source of frustration, we can improve customers’ experiences of roadworks through joined-up thinking and innovation. If insights tell us that a traffic management solution will be unpopular with customers, we aim to work together to provide a more acceptable alternative. Where options are limited, we can work smarter to explain the need for roadworks to customers, to provide clear information, and to highlight the benefits that will be realised for road users and communities once the works are completed.
Customers are the lifeblood of the highways sector. Yet too often they have remained hidden in plain sight. By adopting opportunities, including technology advances that provide us with abilities to develop customer centric solutions, we have a catalyst to develop and mature an industry-wide customer culture that impacts positively on customer satisfaction. Highways England is leading the way, their supply chain must follow.
Richard Bowen is the Highways Stakeholder and Public Liaison Manager at Mott MacDonald
Author: Karla Wakeman, Innovation Lead for Connected Transport, Innovate UK
Winston Churchill once said “never, never, never give up”. A good moto for us all and often applies to finding funding for your projects and innovations.
We witness this often at Innovate UK and although it can mean something as simple as the funding pot for that competition ran dry, as frustrating as it can be, the feedback from our expert, independent assessors can often be instrumental in making sure you are at the top for the next funding pot.
Our process is thorough but not always simplistic, nor should it be as we offer millions of pounds of tax payers money so want it to be transparent and effective to get the best projects funded.
So what can you do to give yourselves the best shot?
Assessors are always keen to see the value for money. Whether you are asking for £10k or £10m, does your application clearly demonstrate maximum return on the investment? Assessors are a savvy bunch and if you are asking for £10m for something which should cost £9m, they will pick it up.
With the current political climate, we are always on the lookout for projects which can go large when it comes to international opportunities.
· Does your project have the potential to be world leading?
· Closer to home, can it be successfully exploited in the UK?
In my experience as an Innovation Lead, the best projects look at exploitation from not just day one but way before as part of the application. Plans change, but to demonstrate you have considered exploitation shows project potential.
Read the scope
Another common mistake is where the innovation is not at the right stage of development for the particular competition. If the competition states it is looking to fund ready-to-go pilots, if you apply with a feasibility study proposal, you won’t be funded and will be considered out of scope.
Check the scope clearly, especially where TRL (Technology readiness Levels) are mentioned.
You might not be applying to us for public funds but regardless, the next piece of advice should still be considered.
· Why should public money be spent on this? (Or in the case of private funding, why should they invest?)
It is imperative that you can define this and explain the additionality that will be achieved. What are you offering that others aren’t?
If you clearly define the above whilst answering the questions in the application (many don’t!), you will be on your way to joining thousands of successfully funded projects such as those funded by Highways England through Innovate UK.
Highways England and SBRI
An SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) enables government departments like Highways England to connect with technology organisations, finding innovative solutions to specific public sector challenges and needs.
In this instance, Highways England is investing up to £20 million across two parallel SBRI competitions to develop innovative ideas and solutions. These projects have been funded to change the way UK roads are designed, managed and used and the 23 successful projects will be displaying on our Innovation Hub at Highways UK.
The scope of this competition was purposely broad covering the following themes:-
· Theme 1: Design, construction and maintenance – Construction site safety and efficiency
· Theme 2: Connected and Autonomous Vehicles – Getting roads ready for AV including maintenance vehicles
· Theme 4: Energy & Environment – Energy savings, noise, circular economy
· Theme 5: Operations – Managing road demand and quality
· Theme 6: Air Quality
In the competition process, the 23 projects which have been funded embraced the challenges that Highways England are trying to solve. They demonstrated value for money for Highways England, exploitation potential and clear additionality over and above the normal course of business.
At Innovate UK, we use our tried and tested competition process to drive productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. It is rare that any two competitions are the same as we always strive for excellence but for certain, when it comes to supporting getting the best innovative projects for UK Plc, we never, never, never give up.
Karla Jakeman is Innovation Lead for Connected Transport at Innovate UK, Highways UK’s Innovation Partner. Come to the Innovation Hub to meet representatives and learn more about many of the successful projects from the recent Highways England SBRI competitions.
Author: Lesley Waud – Transport Design Development Director, SNC-Lavalin Atkins
By people, I really mean a culture and a mindset: a perception by many that doing things ‘digitally’ is a threat to long-held technical specialism or expertise. But I don’t see it in those terms. To me, the risk is in us not helping people embrace the benefits of using digital systems and processes in their work. As leaders, it’s up to us to empower our teams to use technology as an enabler, and it’s up to us to have the appetite and desire to show leadership as to why doing things differently now matters.
That means upskilling our workforce and helping people who may be resistant to change by providing the right support and opportunities for them to develop. It’s about reassuring them that digital transformation isn’t a threat, but an opportunity to learn new skills to equip us to face the digital future. If we don’t tackle this issue now, the discourse will continue to be dominated by those that would rather tell you all the reasons for not doing something, rather than finding ways you can – which alienates those who are eager to adopt new technology, and who are snapping at our heels to use it.
When we deploy digital processes to carry out repetitive activities it frees up our valuable time and lets us focus on what really adds value for our clients. At a recent presentation to clients, an Atkins engineer told of how he and his team had developed a simple algorithm that could come up with literally thousands of design options in a fraction of the time it would take for them to develop one design had they been using traditional, passive methods. The algorithm now helps inform their decisions at each stage of the design process – while outsourcing the time-consuming task of data processing – so that the team can dedicate more of their time to what’s important: validating the findings, assessing the best options, and improving the ultimate final design. In short, applying their expertise to the higher-value end area of the process.
Embracing digital doesn’t mean the prestige of a career in design and engineering is diminished. Today, we are fortunate that we have game-changing digital technology to support our tasks, that many before us simply haven’t had access to, so let’s capitalise on that, and use it to our advantage.
The second barrier to digital transformation within our industry is commercial models, and how they are structured; in fact, in my view this is a serious barrier to digital transformation happening at all. This is where we must start thinking very differently: we need to reshape commercial models, root and branch, a tough ask, perhaps, as many clients are still comfortable with current models based on unit cost and input of effort, as opposed to thinking how, as an industry, we might link cost instead to the value of the service. We need to redistribute value earlier in the process and capitalise on the benefit of doing so.
We need to start asking how we can create components and constituent parts of a project – supported by digital transformation – that are compatible and that can be configured more intelligently so they have a life afterwards. We need to be asking: how could we break a project down into components that allow an element of selection, for example, like choosing from a car brochure, without reverting to bespoke designs for every element, and whereby certain design elements can be reused?
Take motorway construction, for example: there’s a perception that if you have a one-size-fits-all approach, you’d be wasting material because it would be overdesigned for the majority of circumstances. But in reality, we know that we don’t necessarily save material by designing precise components for a single location due to the challenges we face on site in achieving a consistent quality in variable conditions and not using surplus materials – for example, the partial concrete load that goes to waste. By manufacturing a standardised solution, offsite, even if it’s going to be oversized in some circumstances, it will have been manufactured in a very controlled environment, and with very precise material quantities and quality control. So already, significantly less material is wasted compared with building it from scratch on-site.
However, if payment and the measurement of value is linked to time and materials, we will not recover the considerable investments we are making and will continue to make in transforming our industry. A single standard solution that will add considerable benefit needs to have its value linked to the outcomes it enables rather than the input effort in creating and, importantly, maintaining the relevance of the product and we all need to work together to create long-term sustainable future models for our industry.
The good news is, some of our clients’ responses to the government’s agenda to do things differently and drive productivity have been very positive. We are already seeing some good, early examples of commercial models that incentivise suppliers, based on results. I believe our clients want more digital solutions to infrastructure questions, and that they want to improve productivity. But to get this right in the long term we need to get real and stop mixing old-world commercial models and behaviours with new expectations.
If we’re serious about innovative solutions, we must grasp the opportunities of working to innovative commercial models – and that means being emboldened by the transformative powers of digital technology, not threatened by it. When we do so, we will not only uphold our professional status, but it will also mean we may collectively share in the added-value of a project’s lifecycle.
Seven things we can start doing right now…
1. See digital as a game-changer that can support traditional roles
2. Understand, guide and develop those fearful of change
3. Foster new digital behaviours and upskilling, such as knowledge-sharing
4. Reshape commercial models to encourage digital ways of working
5. Use digital to encourage value through standardising components
6. Use digital to behave and act more sustainably
7. Procure services in smarter and more sustainable ways
Lesley Waud is design development director for transportation at Atkins, part of the SNC-Lavalin Group. Lesley will be exploring these themes further as part of the Big Thinking programme at Highways UK on 6/7 November.
As the voice of the UK logistics industry, in the last quarter alone, FTA’s team met with 150 civil servants, regulators and elected officials. Since the logistics industry plays such a vital role in the UK economy – contributing £124 billion gross value added (GVA) – it is important that planners, government and decision makers have a thorough understanding of the sector. However, FTA is faced with commonly held views about freight that are simply not true. These misconceptions can lead to proposals and decisions based on false assumptions; here are the five most common.
Myth one: “It’s dirty HGVs that cause our air quality problem.”
The reality: Unlike diesel cars, lorries have worked to an on-road test since the start of 2014. These Euro VI engines have reduced air quality emissions from the tailpipe by 80-90%, according to roadside tests by the likes of Transport for London. This is on top of already substantial improvements from when the logistics industry started working on this problem in the early 1990s. These efforts are partly why UK air quality is improving year on year and has been for some time.
Myth two: “There are loads of lorries running around empty or half full – if we just had consolidation we’d need far fewer trucks.”
The reality: Logistics is highly incentivised to load as optimally as possible. The UK already has one of the most efficient freight systems of any developed country, with lower empty-running than the EU average (lower, too, than the supposedly more efficient Germany). Many operations could never take a return-trip load (such as tankers delivering to petrol stations), and it is the reality of our society that we import in or make goods across the country that then need taking into our towns and cities to be consumed – meaning there will always be an imbalance in the movement of goods.
Myth three: “Online shopping means our towns and cities are now clogged up with vans.”
The reality: Only a minority of vans are actually used to carry freight. An RAC Foundation report in 2014 found the most common use for vans was for carrying equipment; only just over a quarter of van mileage was for the delivery or collection of goods. Only one in 10 vans on the road are parcel vans, and in London it is estimated that vans servicing online shopping orders account for just 1.5% of traffic. This may have changed a little as online shopping has grown, but the broad picture will remain the same.
Myth four: “We could just do urban logistics by bike or e-cargo bike.”
The reality: We move 2.5 million tonnes of goods into our towns and cities everyday by HGV. Ultra-light logistics like e-cargo bikes are great and can help in particular places (like pedestrianised high streets, public squares serving blocks of flats) but they won’t make a dent in the tonnage we actually need to move, which means they can’t help much on congestion, emissions or safety matters. One medium-sized HGV can do the work of 10 vans, one van can do the work of 10 e-cargo bikes – we need to use the right vehicle for the right journey or we will clog up our streets far more.
Myth five: “Rail is an out-of-date method for freight and we should give its space on the railways to more passenger services.”
The reality: Weirdly, this notion was put forward by the former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis. A major growth area that the UK needs to deal with is containerised traffic from our deep-sea ports and, as they are uniform in size and originate from one set point, these movements are well suited to rail. Each freight train can take 70 HGVs off our motorways and provide a carbon saving of up to 76% on that one movement, so good for other road users and the environment.
However, for rail freight to thrive, it needs road transport to provide last mile access. One of rail freight’s biggest challenges is the net difference in product payload between road transport alone and a combined road/rail approach. FTA is supporting the ’48 tonnes for 48 miles’ campaign by Malcolm Logistics. Just by allowing an increase in tonnes for 48 miles around a rail terminal, it is estimated the resulting annual net reduction in road transport would be in excess of 70 million gross tonne miles.
The logistics sector is the lifeblood of the nation’s economy. Decision makers must be in a position to make fully informed choices about the future of freight. FTA will continue to help government to do so by dispelling these common misconceptions. To learn more about FTA’s campaign work, please visit https://fta.co.uk/campaigns
Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.
Elizabeth de Jong is speaking at Highways UK, which is at the NEC, Birmingham on 6/7 November.
Author: Mark Cracknell – Head of Technology, Zenzic
What is the roadmap?
Roadmaps provide a blueprint of the future. They offer an idea of what the future will hold, creating valuable insight into what different capabilities are on the horizon, and indeed when they will become available to address future challenges. That is exactly what the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030 delivers, by pinpointing over 500 milestones required to get self-driving vehicles on Britain’s roads at scale by 2030.
Launched on Tuesday this week, the roadmap is truly unique. It not only outlines outputs or Milestones, but additionally the interdependencies between them. Ensuring this roadmap’s predictions for the impending future are realistic means it has been critical to consider the implications across society. That includes people, infrastructure, vehicles and, of course, the services from which society draws its countless benefits.
Featuring over 250 contributors from 150 organisations
Each organisation working in this space has been defining their own objectives and path to the future. This is entirely understandable. But what can be recognised is each of these visions of the future and routes forward are not aligned. The efforts of all these organisations are not pushing towards the same goal. Over 250 people from over 150 organisations have worked with Zenzic to do exactly that. They have built upon more than a dozen well-respected thematic roadmaps to deliver what is intended as a tool for decision makers, policy makers and investors.
There is a collective benefit in striving towards one single vision – combined with a common understanding of how we get there. This is the premise of the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030. It is intended to be a neutral, independent, collaboratively built and jointly owned agreement on the vision of the future we all want to see.
The roadmap is cross-organisational in its creation. As a result, the roadmap provides a single agreed vision for the future.
One vision guides our journey to 2030
If we are to work together on our journey towards a safe and sustainable future in 2030, we must first define where exactly we are headed. The roadmap is underpinned by the 2030 Vision:
“By 2030, the UK will be benefitting from proven connected and automated mobility, with an increasingly safe and secure road network, improved productivity and greater access to transport for all.
Next-generation services and technology are designed and developed in the UK, powered by high value skills and a strong supply chain, and driven by public demand, we are a world leader.”
The aspirational vision of the future, highlights where the CAM sector wants to be and the benefits to be realised by 2030.
Four Themes that structure the roadmap
The roadmap is a tool that can be utilised by all in CAM. As such, it has been vital to ensure it is comprehensive enough to make the 2030 Vision a reality. The roadmap has been created with four key Themes at its core. These themes do not focus on just one area, for example, technology, but instead encompass a number of areas.
Society and People – takes a people-centric approach and is the primary driving force behind the roadmap. It covers societal mechanisms such as Vehicle Approvals and Licencing and Use.
Vehicles – the first of two technology-focussed Themes. It looks at the technology required to enable connected and self-driving vehicles, covering aspects such as the automated driving system (ADS) and sensors, as well as the components of vehicle design that are impacted by changes in use.
Infrastructure – the second of the technology Themes. It deals with the environment in which connected and self-driving vehicles will operate.
Services – is an outcome-focussed theme. In some senses, it is the culmination of the three other Themes. Services articulates how vehicles (and infrastructure) contribute to achieving the vision to improve the mobility of people and goods.
Where can you access the report?
Want to learn more about the insights delivered by the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030? Here’s how you can access the roadmap assets:
Interactive roadmap – The interactive roadmap delivers a comprehensive yet bespoke overview of the path towards 2030, allowing all to find their way through the roadmap. Access at zenzic.io/roadmap.
Roadmap report – the written report provides a narrative and context for the roadmap, complementing the interactive version. Download at zenzic.io/roadmap.
Insight workshop – enables you to find your own route through the roadmap. If you are interested in arranging a workshop or to book a meeting, contact email@example.com.
The Infrastructure theme of the roadmap shows how important early engagement is. There is no time to wait for connected and self-driving vehicles to appear before we adapt our existing products and services. The voice of the Highways community is a critical part of the early exploratory discussions of how legislation affects vehicles and services, which all rely on the right infrastructure at the right time. The danger of a standoff, where everyone is waiting for someone else to move first, will damage the UK’s position as a world-leader in CAM. Collaboration is at the heart of the UK’s global USP and we must all play our part in it.
Mark Cracknell is head of technology at Zenzic. Zenzic is curating the Connected and Automated Mobility Hub at Highways UK at the NEC on 6/7 November. Its programme will explore many of the infrastructure related themes and interdependencies contained within the roadmap.
Author: Brian Fitzpatrick – Brian Fitzpatrick, Founder, Fitzpatrick Advisory
The future of our infrastructure is digital, but just who is best placed to build the local authority capability to manage this revolution?
Who will look after the impact of decisions made by assets self-reporting their condition, and automatically informing investment priorities? Who is going to look out for the needs of our citizens as we enter the age of automated design, and algorithmic prioritisation?
Will we build that capability ourselves in our highways maintenance sector? Is that the right thing to do, or will we (whisper it quietly given the current environment) outsourcethis transformation?
For many highways authorities, using the software tools and data management platforms that can best process, analyse, translate and turn highways data into meaningful information is a mystical, expensive and time-consuming process, and they don’t have enough resources now.
The way data and information is collected, and used in day-to-day maintenance activity is inefficient in the first place, and rooted in historical ‘analogue’ practice eg inefficiencies arise from
· different proprietary information systems and platforms in use which don’t talk to each other
a lack of standardisation of paper and computer processes and tools
· collecting the same condition data every year but only utilising a small percentage of it
· a fragmented value chain around the delivery of services
· poor information connectivity and flow, lots of activity duplication
· relatively immature data architecture in local government
· the consequential high cost of data collection and recollection
· limited analysis (and time for analysis) of data, to turn data into information, and from that gain insight to improve service and enable innovation
· little time for customer needs or priorities beyond making sure the road surface is fit
It doesn’t have to be that way but currently for many authorities it just is.
Big Data is the ability to connect and use all of the collected information ‘out there’to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions, and thus make better decisions around infrastructure investment and operations.
Big Data is going to be increasingly relevant to the way we plan, invest in, and manage our highways networks going forward as the number of sensors capturing, processing and reporting information grows, exponentially, in the next few years.
If local highways authorities alreadyhave at their disposal lots of other relevant data than just the inventory and condition available to them, but don’t use that properly, then what is the point of being able to collect more data if we can’t use it?
An additional concern is that although highways officers and service providers were amongst the ‘early adopters’ of digital technology, they now face being left behind as the world moves on and huge corporations are heavily investing in better understanding how data will be transmitted and harvestedfrom the infrastructure and asset platforms which local authorities currently maintain, which will lead to a natural interest in them owning or managing those networks.
I have no problem with who runs our networks, as long as they are managed properly and transparently. My concern is that by carrying on the way we are, highways authorities will miss out on the potential to themselves intelligently plan for and utilise ‘Big Data’ in the future, to the benefit of their local communities, and towns and cities. Or they will miss the right time to do it and we all then end up paying a hefty premium for a transformation to retro fit such capacity and capability.
Highways members, officers and infrastructure services providers need to ‘stay in the game’ and not be potentially marginalised. My question is if you can’t do Small Data efficiently and effectively now, how do you think you’ll be able to do Big Data in the future?
The revolution is coming, but getting it started in an equitable and transparent fashion, setting the ground rules for the way assets will be managed and our infrastructure maintained in the future, will need all of us, working together to define the way we want those decisions to be made.
Brian Fitzpatrick is founder of Fitzpatrick Advisory. He is speaking at Highways UK at the NEC on 6/7 November on achieving real change for the local highway network and overcoming the barriers that to date have limited reform
Author: Stelous Rodoulis – Lead CIHT’s Technology & Innovation Panel, chair CIHT London
‘Digitisation’ is the process of converting information from a physical format into a digital one. When this process is leveraged to improve business processes, it is called ‘digitalisation’. The results of this are known as digital transformation.
Different sectors of the transport industry are undergoing these processes at different paces as the whole industry shifts from delivering transport to delivering mobility.
In essence, the digital world is transforming a local authority’s vision and the services that it can provide.
CIHT would like to invite you to take part in a short online survey to explore the extent to which organisations have a digitisalisation strategy.
This research will have oversight from the CIHT Learned Society Technical and Strategy Board (LSTSB) and all responses will be confidential and non-attributable.
Council employees, contractors, partners and related industries are all being affected by the possibility of new opportunities and the threat – or perception of – becoming irrelevant.
As such, the pace and spread of digital change underscores the need for new, widespread, scalable and more creative initiatives to improve councils’ access to relevant digital and related ‘soft’ skills. This enables them to provide a better, more relevant and personalised service to residents.
The continually evolving digital journey begins with ‘digitisation’. Through the digitisation process, for example, physical records will be converted to digital assets by scanning and saving in a digital format.
An example of a digitisation process that is currently under way at many local authorities is where the paper record of a Traffic Management Order (TMO) is accessed, reviewed, plotted on specialised GIS software and a scanned copy of the original paper document (which is often several decades old) is attached to a digital record.
However, this is a static layer of information, stored locally and not shared efficiently either within or outside of the local authority. If someone wants this information, they need to contact the council and submit a request – a slow process.
Digitisation is not a means to an end; there is limited value in digitising if the newly created digital assets will remain in a siloed, offline database which only a few people can access. In addition, only limited value will come from flat scans of images or forms.
The scanning process should be intelligent enough to be able to leverage attribute data (into a common data environment), so it can be used to support wider and more effective organisational/stakeholder decisions and allow the organisation to achieve better outcomes and realise better value from their assets.
Otherwise the organisation might be investing in only moderate benefits.
Digitalisation is when you leverage digitisation to improve processes. One way of working towards digitalisation is to try to make it easier to share and disseminate the data held within a local authority’s Common Data Environment for the benefit of residents and local businesses – which also improves the authority’s accountability and transparency.
For example, the aforementioned TMOs once converted to a digital format create the opportunity to share and use this information among a wider selection of stakeholders.
These include freight companies, enforcement agencies, transport operators and those providing cycle hire, Mobility as a Service and on demand mobility providers including connected and autonomous vehicles.
Your insight is vital to the project and as a contributor you will have the opportunity to provide any comments on the initial draft of the report. If you have any questions about the research, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Simon Yarwood – KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for ICT and Energy Harvesting
The UK’s innovation support landscape is varied and complex, which proved to be the underlying observation of a Government commissioned report by Professor Dame Ann Dowling on Business and University Research Collaborations, published in 2015.
Professor Dowling’s review included recommendations to Government in two main areas. Firstly, reducing the complexity of the relationships between UK businesses and the UK’s university researchers; and secondly fostering and supporting relationships between researchers and business, particularly for smaller firms looking to innovate.
The need to reduce complexity was neatly summed up in this largely incomprehensible infographic
included within the report. It shows the complex and diverse nature at the national level of the research and innovation ecosystem. Although it’s now a little out of date – with some of the organisations changing name or amalgamating – the underlying picture remains much the same.
One of the Government’s responses to the Dowling Review was the creation of UK Research and Innovation compromising the Research Councils, Innovate UK and a number of funded support mechanisms such as the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and Catapult centres.
This organisation plays a key part in supporting innovative UK business with funding and networking. It is, however, relatively early days and for innovators there can still appear to be a bewildering array of organisations. At the most basic level it is hard to know whose door you should be knocking on.
Sitting within the KTN, our role as the networking partner to Innovate UK (the funding body) means I interact with companies of all sizes and at every stage of their innovation journey. My first piece of advice is invariably to think about the technology readiness level or TRL of your innovation or product.
TRLs were originally developed by NASA as a method of measuring the maturity of space exploration technology. Many different industries have now adopted them as an approach to assessing technologies and their readiness for on-site deployment.
NASA today describes the system as a useful, commonly understood method for explaining to collaborators and stakeholders the maturity of a particular technology.
My point is the TRL of your innovation has a big impact on who you should be speaking to within the UK Research and Innovation family.
This certainly isn’t official KTN or Government thinking, but in an attempt to simplify and demystify the UK’s innovation support landscape I’ve developed the following quick guide. Think of it as a lens into some specific parts that can help business to innovate. The landscape support table
shows the technology readiness levels at which the different UK Research and Innovation organisations operate and outlines some of their key support activities.
In the first instance I’d suggest deciding roughly where you sit on the TRL scale and then, taking into account the type and size of your business/organisation, look at the table to determine where to start. This will help reduce time wasted knocking on wrong doors and hopefully help you reach the right people sooner. Also remember that KTN is here to help people navigate this space, so if you find yourself still wondering where to look, drop us a line and we will do what we can to help. You’ll find more information on KTN here
Simon Yarwood is KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for ICT and Energy Harvesting
KTN and Innovate UK are the principal supporters of Highways UK’s two innovation competitions, both of which are currently open for entries.
Costing £400Bn, local roads are the UK’s most valuable asset. As trades routes, roads they have been the life blood of economies for millennia. Thanks to buses, cars, coaches, bikes and walking, roads make possible access to education, health care and work.
More complex journeys and mode choices are possible on historic roads but with it have come the disease of obesity, toxic air and congestion – costing the UK over £50Bn each and every year. As one of Europe’s largest economies, Britain also has the largest waistline.
A high quality public realm is therefore essential to support walking and cycling. This will release road capacity for medium and longer distance trips that have no current alternative.
Society is however changing and just as car use has dominated the last few decades so now we see the rise of Mobility as a Service, increased rail travel and a marked reduction in car use by those under 35 in our main cities.
The absence of a UK freight strategy causes poor policy and planning on interurban choices and the neglect of the ‘last mile’ impacts the heart of towns and villages. New thinking is needed to support buses.
Funding, innovation, and collaboration
As a result of successive Comprehensive Spending Reviews, the last decade has seen local authority revenue budgets reduce by as much as 40% which has affected front line service delivery. However, over this period Local Government and particularly Local Highway Authorities have adapted, and adopted new technology to overcome the challenges faced through new techniques and low cost interventions.
Our understanding and application of Asset Management has also radically improved decision making. Detailed choices can be more simply presented as to how, within a specified budget, different local outcomes can be modelled and long term value ensured.
Responding to the recent Transport Select Committee inquiry into the funding and governance of local roads, the Local Government Technical Advisors Group identified five key priorities that many in the industry recognise as key to future success:
· Redefine the Pothole Backlog
· Multiyear settlement
· TotEx: tackling the revenue Vs Capital dilemma
· One Single Funding Stream for Highway Authorities
· Future of Condition Surveys and Asset Information
The UK must grasp the 4th Industrial Revolution – faster fibre under our roads and streetlights for 5G and car charging. The pace of change and expectation on Councils for ever more innovative thinking continues to grow.
Building resilience into the way we work
“Transforming the Narrative” seeks to create fresh thinking that applies technology and transformation to how we create more mobility on better quality roads and footways. Aside from new approaches to funding we need a more resilient network.
To quote from the report, here are some of the areas we address:
“Society demands yet more from our aged asset and ever more utilities are placed under our roads and above our street lights. We must understand how we can safeguard travel and communication in light of increased demand and expectation but with ever growing fragility…
“There is a worrying lack of awareness as a sector on how to respond to ever more frequent and intense weather. The Met Office has now updated advice that states a severe weather event at least every three years and that will be 30% more intense. Our assets and our communities are ill equipped for this…
“Political geography is not the right scale to respond to major and sustained weather impacts. We need new and fresh thinking to scale up expertise to provide better response within limited funding. Winter maintenance must no longer be about snow ploughs and salt stocks but instead about multi skilled professionals working 24/7 to support communities during severe storms, floods and fires.”…
The report addresses 12 priorities and arms LGTAG and its members with practical means upon which existing roads and bridges can be upgraded in support of our aim of providing a decent basic service level for users of local roads and footways. Equally the report urges a re-think on how we build better mobility that offers a lower environmental footprint and reduces sedentary lifestyles.
John Lamb is President of the Local Government Technical Advisers Group. John will be discussing these issues in the Future Proofing Local Authority Roads panel session in the Jacobs Main Theatre at 09.30 on 8 November.
LGTAG member Trevor Collett will be sharing his work ‘Measuring and monitoring the condition of our highway network, SRN and local’ at 11.10am in the Tarmac Materials and Asset Management Dome, also on 8 November.
It is widely acknowledged that the UK will face mounting economic, environmental, and social problems if the nation’s infrastructure fails to meet present and future demands. Government estimates propose that almost £500 billion is required to bridge the infrastructure funding gap.
As part of the response to this challenge, the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was established to provide expert advice to the government on the pressing infrastructure issues including ways to close the funding gap. The findings of its first National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), issued in July, are being debated within the context of both London and at a national level.
The report gives a snapshot of some of our most important infrastructure needs. Its seven recommendations set out a pathway for the UK’s economic infrastructure;
· Nationwide full fibre broadband by 2033
· Half of the UK’s power provided by renewables by 2030
· Three-quarters of plastic packaging recycled by 2030
· Allocating £43 billion of stable, long-term transport funding for regional cities
· Preparing for 100% electric vehicle sales by 2030
· Ensuring resilience to extreme drought
· A national standard of flood resilience for all communities by 2050
These goals are ambitious, but they reflect the infrastructure challenges that are already evident every day. During this summer alone, there was a proliferation of headlines related to infrastructure strain and failures. Media stories included ‘recycling fraud’, where plastics recycled by citizens are sent to landfill. Extensive road congestion and unreliable rail networks frequently filled commuter bulletins. And the hottest period in the UK for decades, was accompanied by water restrictions imposed across the country.
Private capital is an essential part of the solution
The NIA recommendations to improve delivery are ambitious, and they’re expensive. But the report stresses that these things are not “an unaffordable wish list”. The goals are designed to fit within the government’s long-term funding guidelines for public investment in infrastructure. Last month (August) new figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed the UK government spent £18.9bn on infrastructure projects in 2016, and more than 85% of that was on transport infrastructure.
That said, the state simply can’t finance all these changes and advancements alone. Developers are calling for greater access to private funding, and the government wants this, too. In the next few years, the government’s own National Infrastructure Plan states private capital should fund at least half of the cost of a £483 billion infrastructure pipeline to 2021.
At the same time, there are trillions of dollars of private capital, both foreign and domestic, searching for a home. There is $120 trillion under management in global pension funds alone. Yet despite infrastructure being critical to the growth and economic health of any country, the OECD estimates that only a tiny percentage of this cash, just 1.6%, is invested in global infrastructure.
The NIC agrees that “financing itself is not in short supply. However, state financing institutions can help to encourage private investment and catalyse activity.”
It seems that everybody wants the same thing. The government needs to drive more private cash into infrastructure projects and private investors wish to invest. So why isn’t it happening?
Plans, commissions, reviews and assessments are all critical to working out what needs to be done. But if the government is to attract private investment, it now needs to turn these visions into action.
Meanwhile, as we wait for the government to respond to the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), here are some ideas for moving forward.
Six steps to bridging the UK infrastructure investment gap
1. Don’t just say you want private capital: vigorously promote UK infrastructure
Private investors are not necessarily infrastructure experts, nor connected and well-versed in the unique features of the UK infrastructure sector. For investors new to the UK, there is scant information available on the country’s infrastructure project pipeline: just 220 words on the government’s capital investment page.
New types of projects are emerging which will need financing in the near future. For example, one NIA recommendation is that government should encourage commercial investors to finance a nationwide electric vehicle charge point network. It’s an exciting investment opportunity which didn’t exist a few years ago.
Such infrastructure projects die, however, without government support and attention. Vocal government endorsement of infrastructure as a sector full of investment opportunities is vital. There are exceptions of course, the proposed Heathrow Southern Rail link for example, is an opportunity identified by the private sector that will be privately financed, including, investment in part from AECOM. This will be one of the first projects under government plans to invite third parties – such as local authorities and private-sector companies – to invest in the rail network, alongside the £47 billion the government is planning to spend over the next five years.
2. Provide the data the private sector needs to invest with confidence
A common criticism of infrastructure investment is that it is risky and unpredictable. Toll roads don’t always perform as expected; construction timelines overrun; project costs can run far higher than forecast. Collecting and making readily available accurate, up-to-date data on the costs and performance of UK infrastructure projects makes for better decision making and builds trust in the sector as a place to house capital.
Providing private investors with data matters because they need to be presented with fully-formed, fleshed-out investment opportunities. Investors want to know that they’re committing to projects, programmes and assets with characteristics that are already well understood. ROI is king.
Investors will not be prepared to rely on estimates and old information when assessing the costs and benefits of projects. Providing data on the financial performance and costs of UK infrastructure assets gives private investors the ability to predict and project long-term revenue streams.
The government needs to improve communication between the public and private sector and ramp up data collection to access capital providers that previously wouldn’t have been knowledgeable and confident enough to invest.
This is about taking a pragmatic, data-and-results-led approach to offering investment opportunities to the private sector. The opportunity is for government and the private sector to engage at the design stage, so that investors have the opportunity for early input into a project and that both parties can share data.
3. Be open to creating and attracting new financing structures and institutions
The government can further attract private investment by establishing programmes and institutions dedicated to infrastructure finance. One such example is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank established to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. Another vehicle is value capture. Often used around new transportation hubs, this is where infrastructure investment enhances land values so that transportation and city landowners can draw benefit from their investment for future spending including on schools, housing and public space.
The need for new ways to mobilise private capital is even more pressing as Britain prepares to leave the European Union. The EU’s European Investment Bank has worked for decades to bring private capital into infrastructure projects – but the UK’s membership of the bank could end post-Brexit. The NIA suggests a dedicated UK infrastructure finance institution needs to be created if this happens.
We already have evidence that government is capable of this kind of work. In the renewable energy sector, the Green Investment Group was originated by the state in 2012. It is now owned by private bank Macquarie, the world’s largest infrastructure asset manager, and has invested £3.4 billion into UK clean energy projects. It’s an example of how the government has the ability to create infrastructure-supporting schemes and institutions which can ultimately be handed over to and financed by the private sector.
The private sector can also provide the ideas. Indeed, it is well placed to innovate and leverage lessons from elsewhere as we have indicated with the Heathrow Southern Rail link mentioned in point 1 above. One recent positive step in encouraging private sector ideas is the UK Government’s introduction of a ‘market-led proposals’ (MLPs) initiative. Essentially, this is a mechanism that provides a route for the private sector to propose infrastructure enhancement projects. The first submissions for rail projects were made this summer. Industry needs those ideas to be rapidly appraised by government, and shortlisted for suitability to proceed. The MLP process is a first test of how attractive the government can make investment in the railways, making it clear that it is open for business and collaboration with the private sector.
4. Matchmake investors with the most suitable stage of an infrastructure project for them
When developing projects, the government needs to investigate which private investors could potentially lend to a project, and crucially, at what stage.
From banks to funds, pension providers to individual businesses, private sources of capital come in many forms. Each will have a different risk appetite and investment timeline. Market appropriate projects to private investors at the right time and at the right stage for their requirements, and the chances of them deciding to invest should increase. This requires the government and private sector to agree on a common aim that will satisfy governmental need and private sector aspiration on return from investments.
For example, the risk appetite of an international pension fund new to investing in UK infrastructure will be very different from that of a dedicated infrastructure fund listed on the London Stock Exchange. A pension fund will want steady, predictable, long-dated returns to match its liabilities – the kind of returns that can be generated by infrastructure which is already operational and performing well. Meanwhile, a listed fund, already familiar with the market, will likely have a far higher tolerance for uncertainty – they may be willing to invest at the riskier construction phase of a project, in exchange for higher returns.
5. Uncouple infrastructure from party politics
Political bias is an issue which has stunted the growth of the sector for decades. The National Infrastructure Commission was set up, in its own words, ‘to address the lack of a long-term infrastructure strategy, soiled decision making in infrastructure sectors, fragile political consensus and short terms.’
There is clearly a need to foster communication between the public and private sectors, beyond party politics. Each has something to offer the other: the government can present state-backed infrastructure projects in which to invest, and the private sector can find a home for the capital it needs to deploy. A win-win situation where much-needed infrastructure gets delivered free from huge expense to the tax payer.
If the private investment community is being asked to make long-term, multi-billion dollar or pound investments, the government needs to offer long-term guarantees and protection to these potential investors in return.
Positive change is underway: the government is already attempting to move rail enhancement investment out of its standard five-year cycle, and similar approaches can be applied to other types of infrastructure too. The process for assessing rail enhancement investment is the same whether publicly or privately funded: the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP). This is a strong statement that both forms of funding will be assessed equally.
6. Speak louder about the public benefits of infrastructure investment
We’ve already touched on the lack of information available to the private investment community on the benefits of infrastructure spending, and the same issue exists for the public. Getting citizens to support infrastructure investment is essential to getting projects off the ground, particularly in the UK, where projects are frequently blocked or slowed by local opposition. Public consultation on infrastructure schemes is complex and detailed. It takes time for members of the public to assess a project. That tends to mean retired people look more closely. A typical project timeline means they see no benefit – only impact. That generates opposition. The real beneficiaries of infrastructure – the young generation – are often less engaged in the consultations. There is a challenge to improve the engagement of the citizens who will see little impact, and yet will realise all the benefits.
The government could do more to promote the positives of new and improved infrastructure as a path to economic growth, community cohesion and a better standard of living for large numbers of people. Time and again we have seen that infrastructure investment unlocks other investment, particularly housing. Developers cannot deliver large-scale community projects (whole new towns for example) without strategic investment in transport, utilities and community infrastructure.
The government should also include and recognise citizens as vital contributors to the solutions. One of the NIA’s key recommendations is to ramp up materials and food waste recycling: it will be essential for the public as well as industry to drive this.
Essentially, any major public and private spending on infrastructure needs to be explained in terms of the way it will help people live better, and drive economic and social growth.
While there’s plenty of private money seeking investment opportunities, the infrastructure sector will need to step up to make projects more attractive, help build project certainty and promote the benefits of new networks and services to investors and the public. For further information visit AECOM.com
David Barwell is AECOM’s CEO for UK and Ireland. David is speaking in the Finding Funding session at Highways UK on 7 November which will address how to get more private sector finance into the UK’s roads
David Barwell – Chief Executive, UK and Ireland, AECOM
There is considerable evidence, from Singapore, London, Stockholm and elsewhere, that congestion charging is acceptable to public opinion, provided that certain conditions are met, namely: equity, revenue-neutrality (or alternatively that any revenues are re-invested in transport), minimal cost overheads, and that people who will be affected have experience that road pricing works.
Road pricing for cars, whether electronic or manual, is most familiar to us in the UK through the M6 toll, and through river and estuarial crossings such as the Dartford Crossing, the Humber, Tamar and Severn bridges, and smaller and more local schemes such as the Pangbourne to Whitchurch crossing of the Thames in Berkshire. We also encounter it when we travel on French, Spanish or Italian motorways.
Road pricing for trucks is now commonplace in Europe, with electronic schemes of various kinds in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, UK (the “HGV Road User Levy”), Poland and Hungary, and planned in other countries such as Russia – though violent protests in France caused the abandonment of their proposed “ecotaxe” scheme.
In both the UK and the US, toll (“turnpike”) roads have a long history going back to the 18th and 19th centuries. In the UK roads were made free at the point of use in Victorian times – though of course we still pay for them through our taxes.
There are many more toll roads, some of them still called turnpikes, in the United States, though again most highways are “free” at the point of use – that is, paid for from the Highway Trust Fund which gets its income from the “gas tax” – to which individual States add a local tax to pay for local roads. However, the gas tax has not kept pace with inflation, and the Highway Trust Fund has had to be topped up from general taxation.
The problem is compounded by the fact that modern vehicles are far more fuel-efficient than their predecessors, resulting in falling revenues – not to mention the increasing use of electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles which pay no gas tax at all.
Because of this a number of US states, led by Oregon, are looking into alternative methods of raising revenue to pay for roads. A pilot study involving 5,000 motorists (including state legislators) has just started. Volunteers are charged 1.5 cents per mile, and will be given a credit for the gas tax they have paid. If the trial is successful, legislation will be introduced in Oregon to permit state-wide road pricing.
In the UK the Office for Budget Responsibility says there will be a £13.2bn pa revenue loss from motor taxes by 2030, with fuel duty falling from 1.7% to 1.1% of GDP, and VED from 0.3% to 0.1%.
We should also bear in mind that, as the UK Eddington Report put it in 2006, “the potential for benefits from a well-designed, large-scale road pricing scheme is unrivalled by any other intervention” – a view endorsed by The UK Department for Transport in “Towards a Sustainable Transport System”.
Dr John Walker is Honorary Secretary of the ITS(UK) Road User Charging Interest Group and Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Transportation Research Group, University of Southampton.
John Walker – Honorary Secretary of the ITS(UK) Road User Charging Interest Group