Highways England Innovation Workshop - the outcomes

Innovation Workshop, 13 July, Birmingham

A post co-written by Paul Connell and Teresa Jolley

How to facilitate and support innovation in the 5 priority areas:

1) Enable easier data exploration, analysis, access and use


  • Data publishers and owners
  • Data analysts / miners
  • Data standards / interoperability experts
  • Statisticians
  • Researchers / students
  • Cyber security / hacker mindsets
  • Visualisation / exploration software and analysis tools
  • Satellite systems


  • Focus on what data we can gather short term:

    i. Find / hire data miners / data analysts

    ii. Identify what can be exploited / shared

    iii. Present case to HE Board and encourage direction (identify priorities through HE vision)

    • Data availability, publish as open
      • Allow data to be 'discoverable' (read-only)
      • Make access to data easier, plus the ability to view multiple layers of data from different sources over each other, or greater insights / learning not previously possible
      • Standardisation
      • Quality data that is personalised (standard datasets, trials)
      • Robust IT technology / Reliability
      • Storage and capture of data
      • Data sources (IP / OP; trusted or not?)
        • Big data, analytics, machine learning (Google, Apple, Amazon, others)
        • Those who can enable / provide counts of people and vehicles (mobile phone co's / other data sources)
        • Environmental data - Air Quality, Quality of Life
        • Meteorological office data

2) Design events and activities that are more inclusive, focus on real tangible challenges, and foster greater collaborative problem solving


Make sure a wide range of stakeholders are taking part in all activities, so that you get a much greater diversity of perspectives, skills and capabilities, such as:

  • Road Users (needs, not wants)
  • Vulnerable Users (Cyclists, Horse riders, Pedestrians)
  • Travellers (those using buses, coaches etc)
  • Emergency Services
  • Drivers / vehicle owners
  • Automotive industry
  • Motoring organisations (AA/RAC etc)
  • Freight / haulage companies
  • Businesses relying on haulage of goods
  • Charities (for elderly, less able)
  • Local authorities and communities
  • Public - taxpayers
  • Other highway providers (local authorities, regional transport authorities, UK countries, international)
  • Other transport service providers (rail, bus, tram etc)
  • Transport, traffic and town planners and modellers

Future transport initiatives / projects, such as:

  • Travelspirit
  • oneTransport
  • MaaS providers

Strategists / mappers / cartographers / future vision people to show / share future needs / trends


Make challenges more targeted and focused. Some areas to consider are:

  • Train procurement teams and frameworks to build new ways of engagement with SMEs / Tier 2 suppliers (Pre-Procurement Challenge example in EU; better use of Crown Commercial Service)
  • Greater communication to the road users - inform the wider world what we are investigating and why
  • Tailored info into vehicles (i.e. lane hogging)
  • Predictive maintenance - exploiting telematics, i.e. in HGVs
  • Better connectivity with local roads especially for diversionary routes
  • Smart motorways v3 (V2V, V2X)
  • Zero Harm (customers and workers)
  • Behavioural nudges (Dashcam / Youtube 'shaming' / penalty; gamification)

There is a deep desire for teams to encompass multiple perspectives, skills and experience (client, local authority, suppliers, users, SMEs, university research etc) that can deep-dive together into well-defined challenges.

Teams want more space to learn together and co-create rather than just 'leaving it to the coders'.

Rethink 'prizes' - winning / incentivising change. Make rewards more relevant to participants needs and to incentivise positive change.

Be more adventurous and thoughtful in choice of activities to engage:

  1. Children's / Young Generation Hack-a-thon (or Code clubs/ Things Camp, where they can code and build things)
  2. Get the nation involved (YouTube, adverts), and use crowdsourcing and citizen science so the public can take an active part in figuring out a problem, collecting data, research etc.
  3. Trials, collaborations, exhibitions, technical contests/contacts
  4. Hackathons can feel a bit out-dated now, especially the traditional model involving teams of developers working in pre-formed groups over a defined period with pizza and beer, responding to challenges set by industry who aren't present to explain their challenges

Understand the Remit of Highways England - what are they responsible for and how far do we go? (Question of Scope)

3) Make it easier for others apart from Tier 1 suppliers to work with Highways England


  • Procurement teams across Highways England
  • Tier 1 framework contractors
  • Tier 2 suppliers
  • SMEs
  • Research projects
  • Innovation Engines / equivalent


  1. Support and enable research as an integral part of events / projects
  2. Become partners / support broader range of research projects with academia / industry partners and SMEs (IPs, studies, international work)
  3. Help framework contractors find and learn between themselves with tech days, innovation days, etc
  4. Get procurement teams involved right at the very earliest stages of innovation challenge projects / opportunities, so they can explore and engage in new ways of collaborating in a more flexible, flexible way
  5. Be open about exit strategy for co-collaborative groups
  6. Become partners / supporters in existing initiatives like Innovation Engines, that de-risk some of the cost and connect SMEs and academia with large companies to solve the latter's challenges.

4) Empower staff to break down internal silos

Encourage staff to take part in a variety of different events to gain insights and ideas for how to do things differently.

Allocate a percentage of time for staff to contribute in regional collaborative projects with partners like regional transport authorities, local authorities, SMEs, academia, supply chain. e.g. Birmingham. There will be others.

Suggested ideas for staff to practice sharing their own knowledge in new settings:

  • learning to code with own children / family / helping children code around highways challenges / problems;
  • ambassadors for STEM/STEAM in schools;
  • % of time spent in other departments / other team;
  • learning what other departments do and how it impacts own work;
  • learning new presentation and engagement skills;
  • networking with new / different partners at events and conferences.

5) Ensure sufficient high level governance, support and direction for all this

Galvanise Co-Direction and Co-funding from top level (high level governance and direction), together with a much wider stakeholder group playing an active and collaborative part.

Mapping exercise needed for existing organisations, their specialisms, skills, expertise and projects/priorities.

Within existing ecosystem, identify most effective roles / groups HE can engage with for mutual benefit and support.

Rather than create new boards, roles and events, this approach reduces the duplication of effort / wheel reinvention and fosters greater collaboration and engagement across a wide range of stakeholders.

Editors post workshop notes/suggestions:

  • Discuss with UK Roads Liaison Group re: governance board - new Data Asset board
  • DfT/ODI/TSC for Transport Data Science Community
  • Approach media organisations to sponsor / support collaborative / engaging event design. They are keen to do things like this, but need support and headline sponsors willing to move into this new space to help make it happen