26 January 2022 | Our Work

Innovator Insights: Mark Entwistle, KaarbonTech Asset Management

Mark Entwistle, Founder & MD of KaarbonTech Asset Management, talks to the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) about why education is key to unlocking innovation in the roads sector. 

 

Q. What work experience did you have before moving into highways?  

A. “I have worked in highways for 25 years. About 15 years of this was on the services supply of utility maintenance to local government. Outside of highways, I worked with utilities, rail and construction.”

 

Q. What has been your career highlight up to now? 

A. “Turning an idea into a product and seeing it used by others is really rewarding. I always liked building things as a child from Lego to bikes and have a fascination with technology. Bringing the two together allows me to focus on small elements of the maintenance process and use technology to overcome them. Because of the scale of the authority networks this adds considerable value.”

 

Q. What is the main way that today’s highways sector differs from the one you first joined? 

A. “Authorities are starting to value and understand technology. There is still a long way to go to educate civil servants about the long term benefits, but this is mainly because authorities struggle to plan for the long term generally.

“There is also an increasing understanding of the assets that an authority owns and maintains. When I started, less than 5% would know how many gullies they had, let alone where they were. Now that number is more like 95%. It’s great to see!”

 

Q. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? 

A. “A lack of education. I have seen vastly different products presented in detail – from us and other providers – products that differ as much as a motorbike and a Ferrari, only to hear feedback that, “They do the same thing”. There is a lot of work needed to help authorities appreciate and understand the differences and unique benefits to them.

“A greater education will help them see how the different elements (vehicles, staff, fuel, maintenance, reactive, proactive etc) contribute to the service, helping to identify best value and cost savings, rather than simply using a high level budget allocation to cover the total cost of the service.”

 

Q. What do you think LCRIG Insight readers would be surprised to learn about you? 

A. “The breadth of experience. Most people’s exposure to KaarbonTech and myself is very limited due to the size of their organisations. Some see us just a software company and don’t know that we can help with the complete service delivery, from funding to contracts.”

 

Q. What do you think is the key to accelerating innovation within the roads sector? 

A. “Education, again, is vital. The industry needs to spend more time communicating and understanding the gaps in their knowledge, to invest in innovation and growth. However, civil servants fire-fight all the time; there is always an issue that seems more important, and education and development takes a back seat.”

 

Q. How different will the sector look in 10 years time? 

A. “Data will be king. This explosion of data means local authorities will become much more knowledgeable about the assets they own and the true life cost of maintenance for them.”

 

Q. What is the best way of removing barriers to innovation? 

A. “Education – again! Local authorities need to recognise the importance of understanding the detail of their road networks in order to increase efficiencies, and realise that technology is there to make it so much easier. Spending time educating local authority officers in a way that can be understood by all levels will help them understand the importance of elements like asset management, and help ignite innovation.

“There is a willingness by civil servants to improve, but local authorities need to recognise the importance of education to make informed decisions – and then commit to increasing their knowledge to reach for innovation.”

 

Below is an update on other innovation initiatives that the LCRIG team have been busy working on over the last few months:

Innovation in Highways

In November 2021, LCRIG published a report entitled ‘Innovation in highways’. The report highlights some interesting findings on the differing approaches between local authorities and the challenges around implementing innovation in highways.

You can access the full report here.

 

The LCRIG / Steve Berry ‘Think Exceptional’ Innovation fund, supported by WJ Group

Last year the first companies to receive funding as part of the LCRIG / Steve Berry Think Exceptional Innovation Fund were announced.

Connor Specialist Paving (Tac-Grid), Community Models, Fitzpatrick Advisory (DASHA), NY Highways and Liverpool John Moores University have been selected to receive a share of the £150,000 Innovation fund, facilitated by LCRIG. For more information on the Innovation fund, please click here.

 

Keep up to date on all LCRIG initiatives by subscribing to our weekly e-newsletter, the LCRIG Insight here.