WHITE PAPER: Mobilising transportation innovation during Covid-19

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The UK’s ground-breaking Department for Transport-funded ADEPT (Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Places and Transport) SMART Places Live Labs Programme has reached a significant milestone with the publication of the first of a series of White Papers.

The quarterly papers are intended to make learnings and insights available as they happen, giving transport industry decision-makers the opportunity to capitalise on the work being done through the wide-ranging programme.

The paper entitled Mobilising an Innovation Programme (During the Covid-19 Pandemic) reveals that the need for agility came to the fore with the onset of Covid-19 – the pandemic caused equipment delays, supply chain closures and social distancing challenges, meaning the teams had to quickly adapt to new ways of working, and find different ways of delivering, as everything went online. Unexpected benefits, such as those brought about by reduced traffic volumes during this period, also had to be locked in straight away.

Collaboration between the Live Labs, sharing learning on sensor technology – what’s worked and what hasn’t – for example, has been a key part of the mobilisation phase. The dynamic nature of the projects also means that partnerships beyond the immediate teams are coming on stream all the time – some are working with universities on data analysis and algorithms, while another is working with its local police force on camera technology. An international dimension is also developing, with one Live Lab in conversation with a local authority in Canada about road surfacing materials.

Live Labs Programme director, Giles Perkins says, “At the heart of the Live Labs programme is our commitment to take an open approach to our insights and findings. This will allow others to develop business cases that adopt similar innovations built on a proven evidence base.

“We hope the White Papers prompt discussions with industry with a view to establishing new methods of working, services and solutions, so that these innovations become our ‘business as usual’.”

Neil Gibson, chair of the Live Labs Commissioning Board, says: “Covid-19 has been a challenging time for local authorities across service delivery, as well as supporting places and communities throughout the pandemic.

“This first White Paper really captures the flexibility and agility required to get a multi-million pound innovation programme like Live Labs off the ground. It demonstrates how local authorities – with resourceful teams and partnerships – can move swiftly and innovate when given the space and resources, even under the most complex circumstances.

“The innovations coming out of the Live Labs programme will not only be transformational for the highways industry, but also provide a platform for which the Live Labs concept can be developed and implemented in other sectors.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early 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).