Highways England has launched two competitions to encourage the UKs most creative minds to come up with innovative ideas to revolutionise roads and driving.
The company aims to build on the nation’s great history of innovation and has set aside £20m to invest in projects which change the way the country’s motorways and major A roads are designed, managed and used.
It is inviting ground-breaking entries which will help develop digital roads – connected vehicles and infrastructure, design and construction that reduces cost and improves safety, better and more predictable journey times – and to improve air quality.
Anyone interested in entering the competition is encouraged to join a webinar, hosted by Innovate UK and Highways England on Thursday 14 February.
The types of benefits which road users and local communities could see as a result include better quality journeys, improved road safety, more efficient use of vehicles, enhanced public spaces and improved health.
The competitions come as the company continues to plan for the future, the changing roads landscape and the increasing automation in vehicles and systems.
Entries opened on 11 February.
Mike Wilson, Highways England’s Executive Director for Safety, Engineering and Standards, 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.”
Highways England is delivering the Government’s current £15bn road investment programme and paving the way for the second programme which will start in April 2020.
In June 2018 the company launched an ‘innovation portal’ – an online platform to help identify projects which could make roads safer for motorists and road workers, improve how information reaches those travelling around or help deliver an ambitious roads programme.
And in October it showcased to an international audience the pioneering work it was leading to transform journeys with innovative technology allowing vehicles and the roads to ‘talk’ to 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
- Air quality
Examples of projects could include roads which repair themselves, robotic construction methods, and improved connections between different modes of transport.
One competition is for unproven feasibility projects which through a second phase closed competition could be further funded for development. The other competition is for proven projects at development stage.
To lead a project, entrants can be an organisation of any size, and can either work alone or with others as subcontractors.
Entries must be suitable for a trial on England’s strategic road network. Projects are expected to start by September this year.
The funding comes from two of Highways England’s Designated funds – ring-fenced pots of money – which the company has set aside for innovation and air quality projects.
The bids will be administered by Innovate UK, the innovation agency which drives solutions to the greatest challenges facing the UK by connecting businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into reality.
Entries can be submitted from Monday 11 February 2019 to 8 May 2019.
Further details of the funding, and of the webinar are available on the Innovate UK website