19 August 2021 | Innovation | Collaboration | Our Work

View from the top: Pushing the boundaries on innovation

I’ve worked in highways for over 40 years but never have I felt quite so proud of the sector as I do right now. This is a result of the fact that I’m witnessing, first hand, just how committed many organisations are to finding better ways to deliver complex services to help us maintain the highway network.

For the second week running, a panel chaired by Ian Large, Chair of the Infrastructure Innovation Board, has been lucky enough to listen to a number of organisations who are pushing the boundaries on innovation that will contribute to a service that is faster, cheaper and better.

Ian and I would like to share with our wider membership, once again, an update on the companies that presented.

I’m already looking forward to this Friday to engage with the next group of innovators who are stepping up to the plate and will update you again next week.

Ian Large commented:

“The second session did not disappoint, again we saw some really engaging, fascinating and enlightening presentations.  There is so much going on in the sector over such a breadth of subjects, it really is heartening to see and be involved in.  I’ve been directly involved in highways in one shape or form for knocking on 34 years and I’m genuinely being surprised by companies and subject matter I thought I had the measure of.  You tend to associate a number of products / services with a company or an area of industry but stop there, your knowledge / awareness sits still.  These sessions are opening up the thought processes and showing us new areas and applications.  I’m looking forward to the next session on Friday.”

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.”