3 February 2022 | Innovation | Our Work

View from the top: Impact of innovation fund

The funding made available to the five organisations through the LCRIG/Steve Berry Think Exceptional Innovation Fund sponsored by WJ is starting to show signs of just how impactful the fund has been. Each organisation has been clear that their innovation project either wouldn’t have progressed at the same pace or simply wouldn’t have got off the ground at all. I’m pleased to share with you, that despite the odd bump along the way, great progress has been made on all five funded projects. Of the £150k made available through the fund we are on track to spend an impressive £148k to speed up innovation in the highways sector.

Community Models – a predictive analytical model which provides a comprehensive approach for assessing and quantifying the impact of local highways investment/disinvestment decisions on the asset, the network, and on the wider wellbeing of individuals and communities. The model enhances the traditional asset and network management focus by adding additional layers of social, economic and environmental data. It allows Highways Managers within local authorities to better understand, quantify and articulate impact; and more-fully represent the importance of the network and the highways services to elected members and senior officers as a result. This will help to protect/secure revenue and capital spending in the face of competition for resources.

Fitzpatrick Advisory / DASHA – is a cloud-based, data hosting and aggregation engine able to receive data and information, in any format from any source, and display it in a way designed by council officers. Fitzpatrick Advisory developed the model as they acknowledged that councils have already invested heavily in systems and platforms for asset management which they need to continue to get the best from as they juggle with new disruptive technologies that are entering the market. As investment in data transmission and harvesting increases, who manages the digital revolution for councils and customers is not clear. A proliferation of platforms will not help and isn’t affordable, yet these are important considerations, future digitisation needs to empower councils and residents, save money and create greater accessibility and equity.

NYHighways – the project involves building a Business Intelligence report which will identify the amount of carbon different highway repair treatments use. Cost of the repair will also be considered, giving the Local Authority the information required to make informed decisions when selecting more carbon friendly solutions whilst still keeping an eye on costs and durability. The report will take ordering data directly from the Authorities’ Asset management system (Confirm/Symology etc) and by altering the proposed treatment type in the report give data on both monetary cost and the amount of carbon consumed. Once the job has been completed the report will show the difference between the cost and the amount of carbon used, benchmarked against a traditional hot-lay patch, the proposed treatment and the final treatment, if different. This will be a simple way for Local Authorities to be able to calculate the carbon cost for each type of treatment they use/propose to use which will be bespoke to them, ensuring local factors and methodology is considered in the calculations. This methodology will be independently verified to ensure it can be scrutinised by external parties.

Connor Specialist Paving / Tac-Grid – the development of a motherboard system for its beacon technology, allowing local authorities to manage their beacons. The technology will be embedded within the company’s innovative Tac-Grid tactile paving, informing visually impaired users of the location and type of road crossing they are standing on via a downloadable app. The tactile paving uses a recycled plastic and MMA resin and is laid continuously negating the need for cutting or jointing and adheres to the existing surface with the use of high-quality resin therefore reinforcing the sub-base which can then withstand heavy vehicles without cracking or subsidence. The tactile can ‘talk’ using beacons which are embedded within to inform users of location, way finder and warnings including type of crossing.

Liverpool John Moores University – research into the use of Spray Applied Asphalt Preservation (SAAP) technology to extend the life of trench reinstatements. Currently trench reinstatements and pothole repairs typically have excessive void contents compared to the surrounding carriageway after installation. This is thought to be a major contributing factor when examining the potential causes of premature trench failure in the surface course resulting in re-work, disruption to road users, additional costs and an overall increase in the carbon footprint. This project is exploring the extent to which using Spray Applied Asphalt Preservation (SAAP) Technology seals trench reinstatements to extend the life of the repaired area by using an emulsion-based product purposefully developed as a penetrative preservation treatment overspray on both the installation and the surrounding area to seal the cracks, micro-cracks, and the interconnecting voids for a permanent long-lasting reinstatement.