£20m highways innovation contest launched

Highways England is seeking new ideas on how roads are designed, managed and used

A pot of £20m is to be shared out among research projects that help develop ‘digital’ roads and/or improve air quality.

Ideas could be related to connected vehicles and infrastructure, new design and construction ideas, or something that makes journey times shorter or at least more predictable.

Two parallel competitions are being run by Innovate UK – one is for unproven feasibility projects that through a second phase closed competition could be further funded for development; the other is for proven projects at development stage.

Ideas must be suitable for trial on the strategic road network in England. Projects are expected to start by September this year.

Highways England launched an online ‘innovation portal’ last June to help identify projects that could make roads safer, improve how information reaches users or help deliver the roads programme.

And in October it showcased the work it was doing in enabling vehicles and the roads to communicate with each other.

Now the company is casting its net wider and looking to invest in creative solutions covering six themes:

  • design, construction and maintenance
  • connected and autonomous vehicles
  • customer mobility
  • energy and the environment
  • operations
  • air quality

Highways England engineering director Mike Wilson said: “This is an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs, collaborative partnerships, and organisations of any size to help shape the roads of the future. We want to explore new and innovative approaches and invest in the best. And we’re keen to engage with a wider network than we have traditionally worked with.

“Together we can make great improvements both to people’s journeys and communities and the environment around our network.”

Further details of the competitions are on the Innovate UK website.

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