The Department for Transport (DfT) is investing in innovation with the £30 million Live Labs 2 competition, aiming to support pioneering projects in decarbonising local highways infrastructure. Quadrant Transport investigates how this will help regions across the UK.
The launch of the second round of the competition follows the success of the first £22.9 million Live Labs programme, which launched in May 2019 and supported the creation of eight local projects testing innovative solutions on local roads.
Now in its second round of funding, the competition, organised by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), is the latest move in the government’s drive to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
A particular focus of the competition will be on making the construction, maintenance and running of the UK’s roads more sustainable.
Trudy Harrison, Transport Minister, said: “Investing in innovation is a priority for this government. That’s why we’re supporting local highways authorities to develop cutting-edge projects and help drive our decarbonisation mission.
Our £30 million investment will go towards a greener, safer transport landscape. It will help create green, high-skilled jobs across the country and I look forward to seeing these innovative ideas brought to life.”
The ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs Programme was a two-year, £22.9m project that was funded by the Department for Transport and ran until November 2021.
Phase three of the programme saw nine local authorities and their partners working across eight innovative projects, developing new approaches across communications, materials, energy solutions and mobility. The findings of each Live Lab were found to be translatable to local authorities across the country.
One project saw Staffordshire County Council secure the expertise of two industry leaders to install plant-based walls to tackle roadside emissions. This saw the walls act as natural filters made from plants and mosses, and is part of a national clean air trial.
Buckinghamshire Council and Suffolk County Council demonstrated how the application of smart transport technology can be expanded in order to offer greater social value than was initially anticipated. This project involved repurposing road sensors, which were typically used to monitor traffic volumes and weather conditions, to be used in adult social care.
In addition to this, the technology was used to allow vulnerable people to live independently for longer by installing the sensors around a house to monitor daily activities by sending signals to carers when needed.
Live Labs 2 aims to deliver zero carbon objectives
Paula Hewitt, ADEPT President, said: “ADEPT is delighted to be able to move ahead on Live Labs 2 with this new round of DfT funding and support. The highways and transport sector is the UK’s single biggest carbon emitter and although we are seeing a transition to electric vehicles, there is a huge gap where we are yet to tackle road infrastructure and maintenance.
Local authorities are perfectly placed to lead the drive to create net zero highways and local roads from the bottom up. The Live Labs format has proven particularly successful for highways authorities, enabling rapid change, innovation and experimentation.
“Following the success of the first ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme, Live Labs 2 aims to build on the partnerships between DfT, councils, commercial partners, SMEs and academia to deliver scalable zero-carbon objectives with potential for commercialisation and applicability to diverse areas across the UK.”
The ADEPT Live Labs initiative demonstrates the government’s commitment to investing in innovation to decarbonise the UK’s transport network.