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Highways England Innovation Workshop, a summary

Innovation Workshop, 13 July, Birmingham

A post co-written by Paul Connell and Teresa Jolley


The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) hosted the first of what is hoped to be a series of Highways England Innovation workshops, in Birmingham on 13 July 2017.

Jennie Boyd, with her dual hat of IET member and Operational Technologies Team Leader at Highways England welcomed all, and introduced the IET Automotive and Road Transport Systems Network (unusual in that it covers both highways and automotive).

The purpose of day was threefold:

  • Scene-setting: learn of the work Highways England is already doing in its Connected Corridor projects to address future needs and challenges
  • Gain research and industry perspectives: learn from the Newcastle Compass4D project, and Jaguar Land Rover Vehicle to Infrastructure research
  • Co-create solutions in an afternoon workshop (led by the Open Data Institute): working in groups to figure out how Highways England can best support and facilitate innovation or what happens in the coming 12 months:
    • Who you think needs to be involved
    • What you think needs to happen
    • How do we make the change happen

Paul Doney, Director of Innovation and Continuous Improvement welcomed all attendees to this first open event, run in collaboration with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Open Data Institute (ODI), explaining:

"We are standing at the dawn of a new era. Huge opportunities and the world of technology offer us ways to do things differently. We need to prepare for the future and we want to better engage with industry to make things happen."

Highways England's Innovation Development Fund of £30 million/year for 5 years exists to provide the necessary level of investment support to enable activities and projects to deliver the changes.

Paul introduced the Innovation Pathway for Highways England, with its four pillars of Research (Discovery), Innovation, Lean (Process Improvement), and Standards, and how he sees sequential progress along this pathway enabling new solutions to become part of business as usual

"Highways England can't and shouldn't deliver the solutions alone, so engagement with the supply chain is essential", Paul said. Highways England is well-placed to lead a facilitation and enabling role to maximise collaborative success.

With the strategic and investment support clear, the purpose of this first Innovation workshop was to identify what the priorities should be, and how Highways England might develop these into a series of events and activities later in 2017 and 2018.

Afternoon workshops - priorities for facilitating and supporting innovation

Full notes from the workshop sessions are available here.

Five key themes emerged from the workshops as priorities for Highways England to address in the design and delivery of future Innovation activities:

  1. Data: make the access, exploration, analysis and use of data much easier.
  2. Active, engaging events: Design conferences and events that are active, inclusive, focus on real tangible challenges, and foster deeper collaborative problem solving between silos
  3. Wider, more diverse supply chain: Make it easier for others apart from Tier 1 suppliers to work with Highways England
  4. Internal support for change: Empower and support staff to break down internal silos
  5. The right framework: Ensure sufficient high level governance, support and direction for all this (at UK, DfT and also international levels)

More details on how to address these 5 priority areas, and who should be involved are provided in part 2.

The afternoon workshops were led by Paul Connell, ODI Leeds, with Teresa Jolley, ODI Birmingham.

ODI Leeds has been working with Highways England on their Open Data Programme.

This workshop forms part of that programme and uses ODI Leeds' Innovation Expertise to explore the opportunities and challenges around Connected & Autonomous Vehicles.

It builds on work at Highways Hack with Highways England, ODI Leeds, October 2016


Highways England is the government-owned company responsible for building and operating the Strategic Road Network (SRN) in England. Comprising around 4,200 miles of Motorways and Trunk Roads (about 2% of total road length), the network carries 1/3 of all traffic, and 2/3 of all freight traffic. Highways England is projecting 43% increase in traffic volumes between 2010 and 2040.

Currently, the SRN contributes approximately 50% of all congestion on the highways network. This costs the economy approximately £2Bn/year, according to WebTag figures, out of a total of £4Bn. Congestion on the SRN results in delays that could rise to costs of up to £10bn/year in future if not checked.

Highways England is responsible for the safety of all those using, affected by and working on its network. But it has a host of other responsibilities that it must deliver: to the public, investors/economy, users/customers, to its supply chain, and to skills, education and research.

Technological advancements in autonomy and connectivity are happening much faster than the cultural and behavioural changes needed to integrate them and make them work.

Fundamentally this requires balancing the strong technical/engineering, top-down and process-driven traditions with more responsive, engaging, collaborative and inclusive ways of doing things.

How should the Highways England Innovation programme address this so that it can reduce the number of deaths / injuries, boost the economy by reducing the cost of delays and support greater diversity, skills and collaborative working?

Highways England have committed to make all non-personal data relating to the SRN Open, and this includes the whole lifecycle of planning, construction & management.