11 August 2021 | Innovation | Our Work

Spotlight on innovation – Ian Large updates members on last week’s innovation pitches

The Chair of the Infrastructure Innovation Board, Ian Large, updates members on the first round of innovations pitches and why he sees opportunities such as this as a fuel for the progression of innovation in the highways sector.

It was my great pleasure to chair the first in a series of sessions throughout August, whereby a wide range of companies presented their latest ideas and innovations in a 15 minute slot.

These sessions are a result of our rather innocent ask ‘If you would like to present to the Innovation board please let us know’.

We weren’t entirely sure of the level of response we would get and were somewhat pleasantly overwhelmed by the volume of applicants and enthusiasm shown by the sector – there are a lot of great ideas out there.

The three hour Friday sessions are split into 15 minute slots, with scheduled breaks supported by a panel made up of Innovation Board members. The first session was supported by myself, Martin Duffy, Mark Macgarty (DfT), Paul Boss (RSTA), Ross Bullerwell (NY Highways), Annette Pass (Highways England), Paul Carter (Cadent Gas) and David Capon (JAG).

It was far from a normal pitch. It’s not normal to see six in a row, but clear timescales, crisp prompt presentations, full of great information and great innovations made the session really enjoyable for all, thought provoking and delivering real value.

The panel and indeed the board, draws its membership from across the sector. Each member has a different view and a different perspective and these similar but different views prompted questions and challenges for the companies to answer.

There was also time for a few questions back and forth, the very fuel of innovation and progression, such as: Can it do this? Will it deliver that? Will it work in conjunction with? Have you considered a wider remit for this? And so on. Questions and thoughts on now, next and the future.

I hope the presenters enjoyed the session as much as the panel did. I know myself, Martin and the panel members would like to thank the presenters for a thoroughly enjoyable Friday morning.

I can honestly say I am really looking forward to the upcoming sessions, for the remainder of August.

Companies/presenters for the first session were:

Coeval – a great idea around displaying real time air quality information implemented as part of a CAZ. They took away some ideas shared by the panel that could make this innovation even more attractive to the public sector. A great innovation and right on one of the key climate change issues.

DASHA – Brian Fitzpatrick who shared how this cloud-based data hosting and aggregation service could produce a single version of the truth without the need to interrogate multiple systems and databases one by one. We were really impressed with DASHA and were pleased to hear that Brian is soon to commence more trials of this innovative system.

Kaarbontech – both myself and Martin thought we were going to hear purely about gulley sensors and a focus on that singular information route. Couldn’t be further from the truth. They explained how Kaarbontech had developed a comprehensive asset management system to facilitate better intervention decisions concerning the complex drainage systems that local government is responsible for maintaining.

Saint-Gobain PAM – their team shared with us their innovative Proteus Gully Grating aimed at providing authorities with considerable benefits and creating value in reducing their total costs of ironwork asset ownership through reductions in maintenance costs.

Roadfill – Chris Fallon described why they had started to focus on a software solution which allows for detailed analysis of highways, giving local authorities accurate live data on the UK road networks. Whilst still at the BETA testing stage it depicts potholes, cracking, rutting and flooding to help asset managers make better decisions.

Eurovia – Dan Anderson and Yogesh Patel presented AVUS – Augmented Visualisation of Underground Services. The system looks very impressive and is very much focused on making sure we avoid cable and other utility strikes in the future. It is tools of this nature that we need to embrace as part of making our operations safer and digitising the highways service and again as with all the innovations some further ideas shared by the panel that could make this innovation even more attractive to the public sector.

Feedback from the presenters

Chris Fallon of Roadfill commented:  “Delivering a pitch to some of big names in the highways industry, hosted by LCRIG, was an exciting and extremely helpful process for our company Roadfill Ltd to showcase the company products. Presenting to industry leaders and learning invaluable insights into their thinking, strategy and advice is an invaluable experience. We are grateful for the opportunity given by LCRIG.”

Scott Hatcher of COEVAL commented: “The Innovation Board is a great platform for industry to share new ideas and partnerships. Coeval is grateful to LCRIG for the opportunity to present its new partnership with Earthsense where we have integrated their Zephyr Air Quality System with our LED Message Signs. This enables air quality messaging to be displayed in real-time without the need for manual intervention.”

Brian Fitzpatrick of Fitzpatrick Advisory commented: “We found the opportunity to present DASHA without a pre set agenda or narrative structure, refreshing and empowering.  This direct engagement with such a high powered panel was challenging but allowed us to be creative in getting our key messages across.” 

Mark Entwistle of KaarbonTech commented: “It was a great opportunity to share some of the innovative developments KaarbonTech have made that allow local authorities to adopt a risk-based approach to maintenance.”

Paul Thompson of Saint-Gobain PAM commented: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to present our collaborative approach to innovation, an approach that has led to the development of Proteus, a new carriageway grating solution that we are very proud of. It is encouraging to see an organisation such as LCRIG recognise the benefits that the supply chain can offer through showcasing new and innovative solutions.”

Daniel Anderson of Eurovia commented: “At Eurovia, we are passionate about innovating to improve the highways industry. To enhance safety, sustainability, and productivity our new technology, AVUS, uses augmented reality to view underground networks prior to works starting, creates safer sites and helps to add to our digital records long-term. It is great to see the LCRIG Innovation Board helping to share this best practice to bring innovation like this to the market.”

The next round of pitches are scheduled for this Friday and we look forward to updating you on more exciting innovations in the coming weeks.