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Highways Innovation Conference 2020

3 April 2020

On Thursday 27 February, ADEPT and Proving Services held their first Highways Innovation Conference, sponsored by SSE Enterprise. The conference was well attended with 41 representatives from 28 local authorities and organisations, including the DfT.

The first session, entitled The New Economy, was facilitated by Stephen Stead of SSE Enterprises and explored the opportunities presented by new technologies and associated infrastructures, including energy and communications. The conference participants were asked to ‘think big’ and consider the capabilities, cultures and attitudes that need to be developed across their respective organisations so that the benefits of such technologies can be fully realised.

Many of the local authorities represented have declared a climate emergency. The conference examined and debated what this actually means for highways and transportation services and the practical solutions that can be implemented to address the challenge. Simon Wilson (Proving) launched Strategic Options Analyser, a tool for assessing and prioritising future strategic and green initiatives. The tool allows the user to evaluate the potential environmental, financial and social benefits of each option against the costs and risks of implementation. All ADEPT members will have access to the tool, including a 49-option starter portfolio that has been developed in conjunction with Future Highways Research Group (FHRG) members.

The FHRG is keen to improve the accuracy, relevance and consistency of data that is used for assessing and planning services across the sector. The “Big Picture” initiative was launched which aims to build an up-to-date repository of sector-owned data that can be used for collaboration and elective sector sharing. More information regarding this initiative will be provided in future blogs.

The afternoon session involved Sector Success Stories. FHRG members described the drivers, approach, successes and learning for a series of strategic options that have recently been implemented by their authorities.

  • Value for Money Assurance & Continuous Improvement - Paul Rusted, Head of Highway Services, Lincolnshire County Council   
  • Community Engagement & Community Resources Utilisation - Owen Jenkins, Director for Growth and Economy, Oxfordshire County Council   
  • Market Intelligence Gathering & Effective Communications - Geoff Pickford, Service Director (Highways), Derbyshire County Council
  • Future Services Delivery Options & Client/Provider Mutuality - Mark Stevens, Assistant Director Operational Highways, Suffolk County Council               
  • Devolution & Democratising Services - Jack Wiltshire, Head of Highways, Dorset Council

Feedback from the conference has been extremely positive. It is intended that a similar innovation conference is held annually. Consideration is also being given as to the involvement and contribution of the private sector in future forums.