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.

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Atkins - supporting digital evolution

6 September 2021

Our latest blog is another Commissioning Board perspective, this time from Atkins’ Jason Pavey.

I’m thrilled that Atkins has been a Corporate Sponsor of ADEPT for several years, and I’ve been lucky to have been involved in the SMART Places Live Labs programme since its inception. In my mind, bringing the public and private sectors together has created an opportunity to collaborate and drive more innovation than each party would have achieved on its own. Live Labs is the perfect example of that synergy and is something that has been close to my heart. 

Atkins involvement started back in 2017 with the ‘ADEPT SMART Places Research Programme’. As with many research and innovation programmes, you often don’t always know your final destination and need to pivot and adapt along the way. The SMART Places programme combined with other research programmes to shape what we now recognise as Live Labs.

How often do you see a range of public and private partners coming together with a shared goal of testing real life solutions on our highway networks? 

Each partner organisation brought a combination of expertise, funding, drive and most importantly, a passion for wanting to do things differently. My personal thanks go to Neil Gibson, former ADEPT President, whose influence, leadership and sheer strength of will were pivotal in securing £22.9m of funding from the Department for Transport (DfT). I was also suitably impressed at how the DfT not only adopted the Live Labs spirit but translated and navigated Ministers through the concept to secure funding. It really does show the art of the possible when guiding minds come together.

I’ve been privileged to represent Atkins on the Live Labs Commissioning Board alongside other public and private sector organisations in helping to guide and oversee the programme coming to fruition. Besides financial sponsorship and senior time, a number of the private sector partners have provided early careers resources to work on the programme. I’ve seen first-hand the positive benefit and experience this has had both on the programme, but importantly, the development of future talent. For example, one of Atkins early careers staff members, Richard Evans is currently supporting the management of the communications strategy for this important and innovative programme.

Following an initial assessment and sifting process, the programme adopted an innovative ‘Dragon’s Den’ type approach where shortlisted consortia/bidders pitched their ideas against a series of categories:

  • Adoption of smart energy solutions
  • Deployment of smart materials
  • Use of smart communications and data technology 
  • Enabling smart mobility and inclusion

Underpinning this, and what I believe to be a critical success criteria, was our vision to create an open culture across all successful bidders, enabling the sharing of data, best practice ideas and intellectual property. Scalability will be key to our wider sector success and we have strived to break down barriers and open intellectual property (IP) wherever possible. The Highways Sector has persisted in low productivity and resistance to really scaling new technology and digital solutions – I hope the Live Labs programme leaves a legacy and culture change for the future.

We are now facing new challenges, such as responding to the climate emergency, recovering from pandemics through to fiscal/funding challenges. To address these dynamic issues, we will need to scale up the levels of collaboration and innovation that the Live Labs programme has shown is possible.  

More posts

  • 23 August 2021

    Cumbria Live Lab - trials with Shell a first for Europe

    Matt Waning, project lead for the Cumbria Live Lab, talks about their new partnership with international energy company, Shell.

    Cumbria’s Live Lab is investigating the sustainability and suitability of using additives derived from waste plastics as part of our highways surfacing programme. We are aiming to reduce our carbon footprint and provide a more resilient road network. The trials carry out real world tests using new highways technology and methods on local roads, which could revolutionise the highways and waste industry.

    Read more >

  • 21 July 2021

    Live Labs Blog: Kent takes flight!

    Kent Live Labs Project Manager, Carol Valentine, talks about phase two of the drones trial running from April to November 2021.  

    Along with AmeyVTOL, Collins Aerospace, and Aviat drones, we are embarking on phase two of the drone trial technology project in a bid to inspect vegetation (soft landscape) and highways assets around the network, and identify any defects in power and water utilities infrastructure around Kent.

    Read more >

  • 6 July 2021

    Transport for West Midlands Live Lab - a deep dive into the personas of the travelling public

    Managing traffic demand in context of the regional population’s habits is an important part of driving successful behaviour change. Sarah Bayliss, Human Insight Manager at Transport for West Midlands describes how the Network Resilience Live Lab programme is taking this to a new level.

    The Network Resilience Live Lab has been seeking to understand residents’ travel habits and lifestyles in our seven metropolitan district areas as a way of better reaching them at times when there is a need to re-route, re-mode, re-time, or reduce their journeys.

    Read more >

  • 8 June 2021

    Smarter Suffolk meets Canadian technology

    The Smarter Suffolk Live Lab has joined forces with Canadian technology firm, LED Roadway Lighting Ltd. Project Manager, Brigitte Sodano-Carter, of Suffolk County Council takes us through this exciting collaboration and the wide ranging use of sensors in their trial.

    Read more >

  • 24 May 2021

    Live Labs blog: Monitoring & Evaluation - a new approach

    Proving Services Director, Karen Farquharson, performed the monitoring and evaluation role for the Live Labs programme. This blog accompanies the White Paper, A New Approach to Monitoring and Evaluation, and includes some observations, reflections and learning from the evaluation process to date.

    Read more >

  • 13 May 2021

    Live Labs Blog: reaching SMEs with outcome based procurement

    Louise Clayton, Head of Transport Operations and Future Connectivity at Staffordshire County Council, explains how the digital revolution in global infrastructure and mobility has provided the opportunity to transform how the council procures and delivers its services.

    Staffordshire’s Live Lab, SIMULATE (Smart Infrastructure & Mobility Urban Laboratory and Test Environment) aims to connect ground-breaking advancements in technology from Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs) with real-world challenges faced by local authorities.

    Read more >

  • 7 April 2021

    Humidity sensing in Suffolk … and on the International Space Station!

    Dr Hannah Steventon is an engineering and environmental technology researcher, working on the Smarter Suffolk Live Labs project at the University of Suffolk. She regularly volunteers as a STEM Ambassador, bringing science and technology to life for young people, and is a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator. In our latest blog, Hannah tells us why she is excited about developing technology to support decision-making that enables environmental and economic benefits, and bringing the learnings to life for young people.

    Read more >