UK council launches contest to minimize roadworks inconvenience

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Staffordshire County Council and its partners have launched a new contest to find innovative digital solutions to help local authorities, utility companies and their contractors communicate with the public, and help people understand and prepare for planned and emergency roadworks.

Initiated by digital innovation consultancy Tenshi, and run as part of the Innovate UK-funded Staffordshire Heineken Program, the ‘Dare to Solve: Roadworks’ contest offers startups and entrepreneurs from the UK or Europe £10,000 (US$13,330) in funding to develop and trial their proposal in Staffordshire with the County Council and its challenge partners, leading UK public and regulated services provider Amey, and ELGIN.

As well as receiving the funding to trial their solution, the winner will also get the opportunity to collaborate with commercial partners to accelerate the development of the technology. The winning entrepreneur will retain 100% of their IP and will receive mentoring and promotion to help bring their solutions to market. The deadline for applications is July 15, and shortlisted entries will be invited to a live pitch and Q&A with a panel of judges. The launch of trials for successful applicants is scheduled to take place in the autumn.

Roadworks play a vital, if inconvenient, part in connecting communities to services, while ensuring regions are supportive and attractive to business. There is growing need to build and bring online new homes, offices, schools and communities, while also continuing essential maintenance and emergency works on existing infrastructure. Utilities, contractors, highway authorities and research institutions are already using data and new technologies to minimize the impact of roadworks on road users, such as the cloud-based platform developed by contest partner ELGIN, which provides a national database of planned street works and associated traffic disruptions, used by 90% of local highway authorities across England and Wales, and the majority of utility contractors.

The Innovate UK-funded Staffordshire Heineken Project is an initiative that aims to reduce the impact of roadworks in Staffordshire. Amey, the County Council, CSC, ELGIN, Staffordshire University, the Future Cities Catapult, and Tenshi are developing a Smart City Platform to enable a more joined up way of planning and carrying out roadworks. The 18-month project will design, prototype, develop and trial a new spatial planning tool to streamline roadworks by combining maintenance programs from Staffordshire Highways, utility providers and telecommunications companies. The main aim of the project is to promote new ways of working to reduce the cost of delivery of core services, minimize impact on the environment and the local economy, as well as reducing disruption, and inconvenience to citizens.

“We are committed to improving how we manage and maintain our roads, while minimizing the impact of these essential works on residents, businesses and visitors,” explained Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, Mark Deaville. “We’re looking forward to seeing how data and emerging technologies can be exploited to help people understand and prepare for changes to their roads, avoid traffic congestion and delays, and feel less disruption to their daily lives due to roadworks.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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