17 November 2021 | Innovation | Collaboration | Environment | Our Work
Spotlight on innovation in highways
During the summer, the Infrastructure Innovation Board, led by Chair, Ian Large, listened to a wide range of companies present their ideas and innovations in a 15 minute slot.
The panel were overwhelmed with the level of participation and engagement from the organisations that took part as well as the enthusiasm shown and eagerness to push the boundaries of innovation.
Martin Duffy, Chief Executive of the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG), described the presentations as ‘one of the most enjoyable events I have participated in over my 40 years in highways.’
In a series of weekly updates, both Martin Duffy and Chair of the Innovation Board, Ian Large, updated members on the presentations in what became a popular feature entitled ‘Spotlight on innovation’.
Here is a look back at the comments and feedback from the organisations involved in the sessions.
Spotlight on Coeval
They presented a fantastic idea about 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.
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.”
Spotlight on DASHA
Presented by 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.
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.”
Spotlight on KaarbonTech
I honestly thought we were going to hear purely about gulley sensors. 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.
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.”
Spotlight on 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.
Paul Thompson of Saint-Gobain PAM commented:
“We were delighted to have the opportunity to p[resent 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.”
Spotlight on Roadfill
Chris Fallon of Roadfill 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.
Chris Fallon of Roadfill commented:
“Delivering a pitch to some of the 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 valuable insights into their thinking, strategy and advice is an invaluable experience. We are grateful for the opportunity given by LCRIG.”
Spotlight on Eurovia
Daniel 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.
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.”
Spotlight on Westcotec
Olly Samways demonstrated his passion for educating the public to make better decisions through the provision of information displayed on dynamic signs. Integration of smart sensors such as thermal detection and optical equipment is being used to enhance information provided to the road user by interactive LED signage with the aim of reducing road casualties. For example over height measuring systems have been deployed on the approach to bridges and collision avoidance systems at accident blackspots. Furthermore, he confirmed that all of their signs are equipped with an air quality monitoring device to help clients better understand the NOx levels at any location.
Olly Samways of Westcotec commented:
“I was extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to present Westcotec’s range of innovative products together with our projects currently in development to recognised professionals within the highways industry. We continually develop equipment to maintain our position at the forefront of the electronic sign industry. The feedback that I received was extremely positive and supportive.”
Spotlight on Rennicks
Ian Thomas shared with the panel their Off Grid Power Solution (OGPS) for dynamic signage and CCTV based on a hybrid wind and solar powered unit with built-in rechargeable energy source. The panel could see immediate uses for this technology especially in the more remote locations around the UK. Ian shared such an example of a well known beauty spot that had become something of a dumping ground for rubbish until the OGPS was deployed to power CCTV.
Robert Tait, Sales Director for Rennicks commented:
“We were delighted to be given the platform to pitch our OGPS (off grid power solution) innovation to the LCRIG Innovation Board. It was great to see an engaged, influential and high level panel representing all aspects of the highways community in the session. The stage provided us with the ability to showcase the features and benefits of the off grid technology. In addition we were able to demonstrate and promote the importance of industry collaboration in delivering innovative and effective solutions to current network challenges.”
Spotlight on Tarmac
Rubber Modified Asphalt seems to be a growing trend and its properties and application were fully explained by Roger Eke. He described how rubber tyres could be incorporated into asphalt at a rate of 750 discarded tyres for every km of new road. With 40 million waste tyres every year in the UK, it is self-evident that we will need to stop sending them to offshore landfill and start dealing with our own waste. With HAPAS approval for their product, Tarmac now have the ability to add the rubber to asphalt at six of their plants across the UK. Roger also told the panel that if the UK shifted from hot mix to warm mix asphalts, we could save approximately 61,000 tonnes of CO2 every year – the equivalent to 300 million miles.
Roger Eke of Tarmac commented:
“For Tarmac, having the opportunity to engage with local authority highways teams through LCRIG is critical in getting the message out regarding new products, technologies and sustainability initiatives.
This allows our local authority clients and the wider market to then make informed choices when specifying materials and to leverage off the support that Tarmac offer and our market-leading research and development capabilities. These technologies are proven and are available now. We encourage local authorities to adopt our innovations to maximise value from limited budgets and embrace the sustainability benefits we offer across the Tarmac materials portfolio’.”
Spotlight on Red Stag
The MD, Grant Shewan, was proud to share RedStag’s strategy to become carbon neutral by the end of 2021. The product that Grant wanted us to know more about was EX Street Asphalt. This polymer modified asphalt is a permanent cold asphalt road repair product which could change the way local authorities and private contractors undertake some aspects of highway maintenance.
RedStag’s Managing Director, Grant Shewan commented:
“The opportunity to present to the board was a great chance to look specifically at the innovation that we work on daily in our business. Our presentation was focused around the environmental innovation we have developed in our cold asphalt products and on the future pathway of innovation we wish to follow. The Board members attending the presentation asked some excellent questions. Hopefully opportunities like this can help industry continue to push each other to look at how we can all innovate.”
Spotlight on Trojan Energy
The difficulties of providing sufficient EV charging points in the UK to meet the growing demand is a problem we have not yet overcome. Luckily for us, companies like Trojan Energy are trying to solve this dilemma by giving drivers a virtual driveway and clutter-free future proofed charge point. Mark Constable described a product that they were bringing to market that was unobtrusive and embedded into the footway so as not to cause any obstruction for pedestrians. In banks of 15 chargers, users could connect to this kerbside technology and charge their vehicles at a rate of 22kwh. They have already secured two trial sites and so it will be exciting to see how this product progresses over the next year.
Mark Constable of Trojan Energy commented:
“The chance to pitch a relatively as-yet-unknown technology to the group was exciting – not just to see reactions, but to get challenges from the perspective of potential implementers rather than end-users. We learn from every such opportunity, and we’re grateful for the chance.”
Spotlight on Highway Data Systems
Ruairi Charlesworth presented a series of automated techniques to check pavement construction practices such as the number of roller passes, laying temperatures etc. The method employs an automated quality assurance system which can be used in conventional asphalt surfacing and maintenance schemes, as well as on supporting earthworks. It works by way of sensors magnetically applied to equipment that gives direct feedback to the operator to help minimise human error and avoid the need for rework. It was encouraging to hear Ruairi explain how the sensors they use negate the need for inspectors to be in such close proximity to large equipment like pavers, resulting in a service that is cheaper, safer and better.
Ruairi Charlesworth, Business Development Manager for Highway Data Systems commented:
“Innovation is something we are passionate about so it was great to have the opportunity to speak with the LCRIG audience. We believe that this is important to embrace new technology and improve what we do as an industry and I hope such conversations can convince the wider public that this is the way forward. If our technology and approach can achieve a small increase in efficiency and lower environmental impact then that is fantastic. We look forward to working with the LCRIG community in the future.”
Spotlight on Roadtechs
Road preservation treatments seem to becoming more popular in the highways sector. Trevor Thompson described the properties of their product, Reclamite. The surface extension treatment solution penetrates through the voids in the asphalt surface, strengthening the aggregate bond and rejuvenating the bitumen. The benefits of such treatments seem obvious as no virgin aggregates are required, resulting in reduced costs and carbon outputs. Quick and easy to apply, provides up to 5 years additional life from the surface and can be re-applied time after time, thus extending the life of a road network and reducing pressure on maintenance budgets with a whole life cost reduction of up to 40%.
Trevor Thompson, Business Manager for Roadtechs commented:
“The Innovation Board is innovation itself and has provided Roadtechs with a platform to demonstrate how surface rejuvenation can assist highways managers with the maintenance of good roads and extend the life of the surface. The opportunity for instant feedback from the much respected industry professionals on the Board is invaluable and most welcome.”
Spotlight on Rosehill Highways
Clare Riley demonstrated the Rosehill Highways NCLD Lite, a one-metre Narrow Cycle Lane Defender that retains the same width and height as other units in the range, offering unrivalled protection, but, at half the length and less than half the weight, this allows the installation by a single installer with the resulting savings in time and costs. Already being trialled in some local authorities, it was clear the benefits this solution has over the more traditional lane defenders.
Clare Riley, Sales Manager for Rosehill Highways commented:
At Rosehill Highways we understand the importance of providing a substantial degree of segregation to encourage active travel. We produce all our units with recycled tyre shred as large and solid units which offer safety to cyclists whilst helping authorities reduce their carbon footprint. I would like to thank LCRIG, once again, for the opportunity and hope that we can continue to educate authorities on this approach.”
Spotlight on ATM
The collection of asset inventory is often a costly and time consuming exercise which sometimes results in incomplete asset data held by local authorities. Robert Thorn introduced Advanced Mobile Asset Collection (AMAC) which exploits the latest technology to perform an asset inventory and sign retro-reflectivity testing across the network without incurring costly traffic management or creating disruption to road users. Traditionally, road signs are surveyed during the daytime, requiring traffic management and hand-held measuring devices, making this method of data collection slow, which has been the driver for this particular innovation.
Robert Thorn, AMAC Manager at ATM commented:
“It was a great opportunity for me to explain to the Innovation Board, the survey services that AMAC offers and how they fit in with the ‘Well Managed Highway Infrastructure: A Code of Practice‘. The technology we use offers considerable advantage over conventional ‘hand-held’ collection methods. I can understand clients surprise and disbelief when I inform them we can survey at up to 70mph, which we regularly do when on motorways and dual carriageways. Our surveys are ideally suited to high speed roads or where any form of traffic management which might be needed for manual collection methods, would be disruptive to the network.”
Spotlight on Levett Business Services.
It would be nothing new for you to hear myself bemoaning the fact that too many of our systems are not fully integrated, creating a barrier to real step improvements. Neil Levett told us that he is pushing for the WHOLE industry to align our systems, whereby competing tech suppliers are forced to come together for the benefit of the operative/site safety work. Acknowledging it will take true collaboration to achieve this, the aim would be to enable all of our work sites to be tech’ supplier agnostic – for a common goal! Levett Business Services and Clearview Intelligence have the ability to co-ordinate this through SmartWorker and they have already partnered with some suppliers in order to demonstrate the concept. The intention is to develop SmartWorker to be technology supplier agnostic so that different manufacturer’s systems interface automatically on site.
Neil Levett, Managing Director for Levett Business Services commented:
“I was very grateful for the opportunity to present to the LCRIG Innovation Board last week. The Board is made up of a very cohesive and well placed group from within the sector. The specific subject of Operative safety that we were discussing, will require all stakeholders and road owners to engage collaboratively to achieve the optimum safety levels for our colleagues on the network, so this was a perfect forum to begin this discussion.”
A spotlight on Connect Safety Net
Paul Richardson described how they were helping to digitise the health and safety function as it relates to highways maintenance activities. He demonstrated an App that they had developed which could track and report on a whole range of health and safety issues from compliance checks through to logging incidents and near misses. What makes this product different from others on the market is its ability to utilise speech recognition which the users find particularly beneficial. In addition, data capture is ‘live’ resulting in a more accurate record which uploads instantly to the cloud. Where wifi is unavailable the system will work off-line uploading the data when a connection is re-established. Most impressive though, apart from the very low cost point, was the machine learning embedded into the system that would help to predict future incidents.
Paul Richardson, Director of 2Innov8 commented:
“It was an incredible opportunity to receive feedback on what works and how we can be successful, aligning with the objective of Highways England to achieve zero accidents on the strategic road network by 2040.”
A spotlight on Connor Specialist Paving / Tac-Grid
Delivered by Sandra Smith and Andrew Connor. The specialist paving that Andrew and Sandra showed us was already being used by some local highway authorities, and extensively so by Coventry. The light weight Tac-Grid system can be installed very quickly and bonds with the existing surface without the need for costly excavation that accompanies traditional tactile flagstones which are heavy and cumbersome for the installer. The speed of installation can be 4 times quicker than flagstones with reduced carbon, no noise pollution and no dust. Their system uniquely includes beacon technology which can allow those with impaired sight to more easily navigate crossings or any other obstacle as the individual beacons can be individually programmed to relay any message.
Sandra Smith, Office and Procurement Manager at Connor Specialist Paving / Tac-Grid commented:
“We were delighted to be chosen to pitch our innovative Tac-Grid tactile system to the board of panellists in a Dragons Den type format. Andrew Connor, MD presented, explaining how the final prototype for Tac-Grid was achieved, the technology behind the system and how it helps the environment, pedestrians and local authorities compared to the more traditional methods. Thank you to LCRIG and the panellists for this opportunity, and thanks to Emily and Shelley for their help with some technical issues. It was most definitely a valuable and worthwhile experience for our company.”
A spotlight on IGP
Delivered by Camillus Dunne and David Wykes. Camillus explained how he had developed the idea to provide a fast acting solution as a temporary flood barrier. His design includes a series of collapsible steel cages that are lined and filled with water to repel the rising river levels etc – fighting fire with fire I guess. These cages are easy to transport, store and of course are reusable. It is simple to link the cages creating a contiguous barrier of any length. They have been trialled over in Florida but as yet have not been put into use in the UK. The panel could really see the benefit of this system and think it will be only a short time before we see them in use in the UK.
David Wykes, Business Development Manager at Innovative Global Products commented:
“Innovative Global Products found the chance to pitch to the LCRIG Innovation Board with our new Rapid H2O flood barriers a great opportunity, the ongoing Pandemic has made it a challenge to meet and discuss products with customers, let alone discuss innovation and new product development so the opportunity to present to an expert panel and receive their feedback and advise was fantastic for us.”
A spotlight on Multevo
Delivered by Josh Sweeney. In a move to reduce their carbon footprint Multevo has invested in hydrogen technology to power their new Hydro Hog predicting 30-50% savings on emissions. Josh described it as the first ever low carbon multi-purpose highway maintenance machine. Josh didn’t want to wait for technology to fully catch up before making such a change – innovation always needs someone to go first. He accepted that the availability of hydrogen is an issue, be that blue hydrogen or green hydrogen which is why the Hydro Hog is equipped for dual fuel. The versatility of the Hydro Hog is impressive as much of its equipment is interchangeable, which had Matthew referring to it as the ‘Swiss army knife’ of highways maintenance vehicles.
Josh Sweeney of Multevo commented:
“Because Multevo are a supplier of highways equipment as well as a highway maintenance contractor, we are serious about sustainability and feel we can help make a difference in achieving lower carbon solutions for highways maintenance tasks ahead of the curve. We are grateful for getting the opportunity to present our initiative to the LCRIG Innovation Board and are already working with customers to help to make this a reality for them and for us in our own service delivery.”
In addition to the innovation pitches, here 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
This month (Nov 21) 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) and NY Highways 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 here.