Innovators take aim at roadworks pain: National Highways competition winners announced
Ten innovators selected by National Highways to develop ideas that promise to reduce the impact of roadworks on motorists, local communities and businesses will receive mentoring and expert guidance on scaling up their proposals from Connected Places Catapult.
Winners of the competition were announced on 1 March and each receives £15,000 to take forward their plans along with technical and commercial support from both the Catapult and National Highways.
The winning ideas include software and platforms to improve roadworks planning and allow more efficient road maintenance, as well as new technologies providing real-time data to help people better plan their journeys.
Technologies range from a digital twin system to a centralised hub for engagement with road users to video analytics software providing insights into people’s experiences at roadworks.
One aim of the competition is to allow smaller enterprises who do not traditionally have the opportunity to work directly with National Highways to showcase their ideas.
The 10 competition winners and their ideas are:
Alchera Technology (Cambridge) – A tool that uses traffic flow predictions to dynamically plan and book roadworks to make best use of highway space.
Be Mobile (Melle, Belgium) – An interactive traffic management solution delivering road operators with insights into bottlenecks and informing road users in a timely fashion about the mobility situation.
Colas (Birmingham) – Optimising traffic flows by offering diversion options in real-time and using variable messaging signs alongside parallel communications to better engage all road users.
Emu Analytics (London) – Using digital twin software and geospatial data to provide the public with insights into the proximity of roadworks and their impact on highway users.
Fewzed (Castle Cary) – Software designed to rapidly assess routes and areas subject to roadworks and diversions, to understand and benchmark the impact on stakeholders and road users.
Immense Simulations (London) – A software platform designed to assess the impact of alternative network management interventions, to inform future roadworks planning.
Innovation Factory (Birmingham) – An artificial intelligence dynamic digital twin to simulate roadworks to minimise delays and negative impacts on drivers, businesses and neighbours.
Lokulus (Macclesfield) – Delivery of a centralised and inclusive customer service hub which will provide the public with personalised real-time roadworks information, accessed via QR codes distributed to affected households and businesses.
Wordnerds (Gateshead) – A text analytics platform that combines AI and linguistics to provide genuine customer understanding, leading to changes that improve how people experience roadworks.
Robok (Cambridge) – Using computer vision and artificial intelligence based analytics to understand behaviours and interactions of road users and service providers.
Trials of some of these innovative ideas will begin later this year on roadworks sites on the strategic highway network. Those that are most successful are set to be taken forward with National Highways and its supply chain.
The competition is funded through National Highways’ Designated Funds; a ringfenced pot of money dedicated to investing in and supporting initiatives that deliver lasting benefits for road users, the environment and communities in England.
Connected Places Catapult, Executive Director, SME Development and Academic Engagement, Alex Weedon said: “As innovation specialists, we’re always looking for ‘pain points’ to target, where things don’t always go as smoothly as they might. Roadworks are an all too familiar pain point for many of us, which makes them ripe for innovation.
“By collaborating with National Highways, its supply chain and disruptive firms we believe we can help make a lasting impact that benefits society at large and the highways sector.”
National Highways Customer Service Director Laura Baker-Lacey added: “We wanted to find ideas that we hadn’t trialled, tested or even thought of ourselves – and we haven’t been disappointed. We have chosen 10 very exciting projects that could really help reduce the impact of roadworks on road users.
“Roadworks are an essential part of managing, developing and maintaining our roads but we know they are a cause of frustration for not only drivers but those in the surrounding communities and local businesses.
“We hope these ideas will make the experience of roadworks a kinder one and look forward to seeing how the projects develop.”