Ian Large, Chair of the Local Council Roads Innovation Group’s Infrastructure Innovation Board, provides an update on the role of the Board and outlines why innovation is key to driving change in the sector.
The Infrastructure Innovation Board is hugely important to me. Over time I have seen good ideas fail or fail to be taken up simply because they did not receive the support they needed or get in front of the right audience. Our industry and the way we approach the business of highway management and physical work can fall into a familiar and comfortable remit of products and processes.
I see the Board as a route to improvement across the sector and a catalyst for the innovations brought before it. The Board will constructively push, poke, prod, support, critique, comment on everything brought before it and offer a range of support from technical comment to ideas around how to best progress and promote an idea.
There is huge potential to access real world trial sites across the LCRIG membership and of course funding. The Board will act as a catalyst for innovation and ideas. It will be a driver for industry, taking in and considering proposals, offering support across a wide range of areas.
Good ideas are just that, good ideas, they can come from an existing robust company set up or an individual who can see something that will bring about change and improvement. The Board is in place to support both ends of the scale. Without innovation things stand still, there is no progression, no improvement, no one strives to improve, and we fall into a stale status quo.
We can’t do that as there are huge key drivers for us all around – namely the environment, disruption, life span, value and of course cost. Innovation isn’t an exercise in driving down cost, the remit isn’t for us to look for cheap alternatives. It’s about value and best value is made up of many factors with cost being one of them.
The prospect of new ideas, new products, materials, equipment or even a new way to use an existing material in combination with another supporting product is exciting. I expect to see a wide remit of innovation that covers every aspect of highway working life brought before the Innovation Board from surfacing materials, recycled materials, line marking, joint treatments to software management systems, new plant and equipment and everything in between. If it’s part of, influences, catalogues, reports, supports the highway then we need to see it.
Innovation and improvement promotes change and confidence. If an idea is captured and supported it grows, gains substance and reaches its potential. The Infrastructure Innovation Board aims to do just that. If an innovator can see a way to promote and support an idea they will have the confidence to put their own efforts and endeavours into the process and with the Board’s input and the range of support available it will progress and grow. The sector then benefits as does the person or company being bold enough to push the boundaries and seek change.
I can’t wait to see the first applications and the first innovators coming forward. Exciting times are ahead and my message to innovators is to come forward visit the LCRIG website and complete the simple, straightforward application, and for everyone else keep a close eye on LCRIG as good things are on the way.
A new £150,000 Innovation Fund for road surface treatments has been made available through the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) in partnership with the leading highway marking and safety business WJ Group, who are funding the project.
Funding applications can be received at any time, with the expected duration of the fund set to last a year.
Applications will follow a two-phase process:
Phase one – Completion of the online application form.
Phase two – Successful applicants chosen by the Innovation Board will be invited for a discussion panel and Q&A session.
After a career in highways spanning more than 40 years, Kieran Collins, Highways Commissioner at Cheshire West and Chester Council, is retiring next month (November). Here, he looks back fondly on his time in the sector and provides an update on his plans for the future.