Live Labs Blog

The ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs Programme is a two-year, £22.9m project funded by the Department for Transport that will run until Spring 2021. This page will give regular updates on the project.

Latest post

Live Labs Blog: Sensible science - DfT’s Senior Policy Advisor, Matt Eglinton looks at the theory behind the Live Labs experiment

13 January 2020

We are all scientists in one way or another. We use tools and gather evidence to draw the conclusions that we employ to improve our everyday lives. But modern life is also exceptionally demanding. We don’t have time to think about how to be more efficient, we’re too busy juggling the operational side of life in the 21st century.

It’s the same for highways management. Britain has many truly fantastic people within the sector, committed to delivering better, safer road infrastructure. Our highway authorities work hard to ensure that our local roads and footways are sufficiently maintained and equipped for the needs of our villages, towns and cities.

However, it can be extremely tricky to balance ongoing operational objectives with developing new project-orientated ways of delivering a more effective service. Rather than being able to apply rigorous scientific reasoning to create innovative approaches, highways authorities can be forced to rely on older, tried and tested methods that may no longer be fit for purpose. Live Labs was created to provide space for them to explore and test.

Behind any research lies the scientific method. Relying on the simple core principles of hypothesis, experiment and analysis, it is a necessary building block for any meaningful advancement, innovation or efficiency. Maximising the validity and value of scientific endeavour requires the proper application of existing knowledge, objectivity and honesty, and a commitment to being collegiate and open, so that wider society may benefit from the findings.

In his 1974 commencement address at the California Institute of Technology (Feynman, 1985) physicist Richard Feynman invoked the informal approach to communicating the basic principles of science: “…if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid - not only what you think is right about it; other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked - to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.”

The ADEPT Live Labs programme has been designed with Dr Feynman and those scientific core principles in mind. Each Lab will generate vast amounts of data, sharing both success and failure. This what is so refreshing - failure can now be an option, properly documented and shared. With over 150 highway authorities across England, it’s critical that ideas are only replicated when a hypothesis has been proven to work, so that valuable resources can be channelled effectively, making savings to the public purse.   

It is great that local authorities and the private sector are investigating together how we can embrace new advances in making revenue savings, data collection, navigation systems, use mobile technologies and robotics, and use different materials to help harvest energy. It will help transform how we manage and maintain our local highways, now and in the future.

The Government is keen to see innovation shape the country for the better, and is fully behind this agile, unified approach. Each project’s real-world testing of new road surfaces and technologies that interact with actual people, will help establish which emerging innovations provide long-term workable solutions. If this two-year venture is successful, we hope that further Live Lab initiatives can be developed, setting the scene for the creation of a truly modern and integrated, living environment, with good, scientifically reasoned transport infrastructure at the heart of it.

More posts

  • 20 December 2019

    Live Labs blog: project update - Staffordshire doing things differently

    Here in the Staffs Live Lab we are trying to do things a little differently! Over the last two months, we’ve been running the first phase of our Challenge Creation, based around our two focus areas - air quality and intelligent rural mobility. We're aiming to identify the critical issues faced by the county and then develop the tangible challenges that we can release to the SME market.  

    Read more >

  • 3 December 2019

    Live Labs blog: speed dating – the Live Labs way

    Two weeks ago, ADEPT held its annual Autumn Conference in the beautiful city of Bath. Speaking to a packed house of local authorities and corporate partners, Darryl Eyers, the ADEPT President, set the scene for the overall theme ‘Well-connected places in a changing world’.

    The two-day conference covered everything from environmental issues to Brexit, but showcasing innovation and new approaches underpinned it all. For our eight Live Labs, this meant the second day was their time to shine!

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  • 20 November 2019

    Live Labs blog: Hit your targets!

    Monitoring and evaluation might not seem the most exciting aspect of a project, but it is critical.

    For Live Labs, with its focus on scalability, shared learning and value for money, it is essential, both for the performance of each project and the programme as a whole. When done properly, the process provides vital feedback on progress, pinpoints areas that need support, as well as helping to identify and realise all the potential benefits.

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  • 15 November 2019

    Live Labs blog: Project update - location, location, location!

    This month’s project update comes from the East of England and the team from Central Bedfordshire. 

    Kinetic walkways, solar carparks and thermal de-icing are the exciting new trials being developed by the Central Bedfordshire Live Labs team.

    Harvesting renewable energy to support the smart highways of the future is the focus for the team, which includes Ringway Jacobs, Eurovia, Colas and PaveGen. When colleagues from the Department for Transport visited last week, the team were keen to show how outline designs were shaping up for the proposed site locations:

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  • 22 October 2019

    Live Labs blog: Procurement, innovation and learning

    Giles Perkins, Programme Director, talks about Live Labs learning.

    Innovation is one of those words that means different things to different people. In our case, it’s focused around our four enabling ‘smarts’ of materials, energy, communications and mobility in local roads, but there is so much more to innovation than the things we develop, build, test and implement.

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  • 2 October 2019

    Live Labs blog: Project update – Buckinghamshire’s busy summer!

    This month, we've caught up with the Buckinghamshire Live Labs team who are focused on creating a SMART, connected community in Aylesbury Garden Town…

    It’s been a busy time. Taking their project out to the community this summer, the team have been showcasing their plans at the Buckinghamshire County Show and Waterside Festival. The good news is it has been very well received! As well as consulting with stakeholders, the team are working closely with Aylesbury District Council to align the project with the Garden Town's own programme of work.  

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  • 25 July 2019

    Live Labs blog: Ready, set… Innovate! ADEPT Live Labs Mobilisation Day

    Earlier this summer the winning eight Live Labs project teams came together in WSP's offices in Birmingham for a Mobilisation Day, kicking off a two year journey of testing and introducing emerging innovations to the UK highway network. The project has been supported by the Department for Transport (DfT) who have provided £22.9m of funding and ADEPT's corporate partners - SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP.

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