New £14.5m UK research alliance launched, with leadership from National Highways


A new research alliance has been launched in the UK as part of a £14.5 million program which will help shape the development of innovation in the highways industry over the next five years.

National Highways and some 20 companies from its supply chain have joined forces in the Roads Research Alliance to define and develop a portfolio of innovative projects for the roads sector.

Research already under way includes using robots and semi-automation to carry out roadside tasks and protect the safety of workers, maximising the use of waste materials in road construction and the potential introduction of low carbon self-healing concrete roads.

Working in partnership with the University of Cambridge and Costain, National Highways has been given some £5.5m funding for a five-year programme to support research in such areas as Digital Roads, sustainability, automation and carbon reduction.

Funding has been provided by both the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and the EU Marie Sklodowska Curie Action (MSCA) co-fund programme for the work.

National Highways has also reached out to organisations across the sector for a collective approach to help define the research required to tackle some of the challenges faced both now and going forward.

The alliance was formally launched at St Catherine’s College in Cambridge last night (Tuesday 27 September) when the 22 members signed a charter setting out the commitments and expectations on partners to enable effective co-operation and support the research projects.

Prof Ioannis Brilakis of the University of Cambridge signed charter on behalf of the university, with representatives from the other partners in the new alliance also in attendance. You can read more about Prof Ioannis Brilakis’s new transportation research efforts in the September 2022 edition of TTi magazine. 

Read more about Professor Ioannis Brilakis’ research at Cambridge University in the September 2022 edition of TTi magazine

Bringing real-world insight from within the industry, the partners will share their experience and knowledge as well as identifying the areas where innovation is needed and drive research in that direction. While the additional contributions from alliance partners brings the research fund total to £14.5m.

“We were already committed to delivering the research project and had funding in place but, rather than simply go forward alone, we wanted to work collaboratively with our supply chain and deliver a more joined-up approach to better address the challenges our sector faces,” says National Highways chief executive Nick Harris. “So we are using the research project as the foundation for the Roads Research Alliance enabling us to bring together National Highways, the research and development teams and our supply chain to focus on the development and deployment of many of these innovations.

“Together we can develop ideas that will increase safety on our network as well as improving how we design, maintain, operate and build roads. This is the first time National Highways has formed an alliance like this to deliver research and we are looking forward to seeing the exciting results.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).