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Live Labs 2 blog - introducing the UK's Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads – North Campus

North Lanarkshire Council: UK Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads – North Campus

Elaine Nicol, Roads Maintenance Manager at North Lanarkshire Council, introduces the UK Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads (North Campus) project.

As the North Campus for the Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads, the North Lanarkshire Council Live Labs 2 project aims to accelerate the sector’s transition to net zero through collaboration across local authorities and the wider industry.

Historically, local authorities have not been particularly good at collaboration and somewhat guarded over their areas, remit, resources, and budgets, which has often hampered collaborative efforts. That is why it is more important than ever to work together as a sector to achieve decarbonisation.

Collaboration on Live Labs 2

When ADEPT announced it was running a second Live Labs programme (LL2), seeking ideas and innovations the industry could use to cut carbon emissions, North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) was approached by its partner Amey for ideas.

This is perhaps where our collaboration journey began, as we all sat around the table thinking of many weird and wonderful blue-sky ideas for innovation. It became evident very quickly that we were all invested in finding ways to reduce our CO2 emissions, and many ideas were discussed at length.

Through our collaboration, we came up with a worthy bid and the idea for the UK Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads was born.

UK Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads – the bid

The bid recognised the need to identify, evaluate and trial the best low carbon materials and technological innovations in road maintenance.

It focused on delivering a robust, industry recognised, trusted framework database to the public and private sectors, by convening industry and academic leaders across the global network. It also identified the need for the industry to decarbonise by collaboration.

Following the official announcement of the £30 million ADEPT Live Labs 2 programme, our bid was submitted and successfully reached the (rather scary) Dragons’ Den stage of proceedings. North Lanarkshire Council and Amey continued to refine and adapt the bid which ultimately resulted in its success.

Combining bids to form the UK Centre of Excellence

However, it soon became very clear to ADEPT that there were many similarities across a number of the bids. They were able to clearly identify strengths and weaknesses in the bids presented by the different applicants which enabled them to ‘pair up’ local authority bids where similarities occurred.

Two comparative bids were between North Lanarkshire Council (NLC), in partnership with Amey, and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), who form part of the West Midlands Combined Authority and who have governance over seven local authorities in the West Midlands and their partner Colas.

Both bids proposed, among other things, a Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads which included Live Lab demonstrators, challenge-led programmes, and carbon technical reviews.  

NLC was focusing on a fence-to-fence road maintenance materials approach and TfWM focusing more on asphalt materials. So, in accordance with guidance from ADEPT, both successful bids were combined, as were both the successful bidding parties. Together, we launched the UK Centre of Excellence with two campuses, north and south.

A new, collaborative partnership

Our initial concerns regarding this new, collaborative partnership centred around how were going to operate north and south of the border.

Well, here we are almost 6 months into the Live Labs 2 UK Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads project and the collaborative effort between NLC, in partnership with Amey, and TfWM, in partnership with COLAS, is going extremely well.

I believe this is largely down to a few things:

  • The essential early introductory meetings and regular engagement meetings set up between NLC and TfWM.
  • The development of a robust business case, governance procedure and project team and expert panels who bring various skillsets to the project, allowing idea development.
  • The enthusiasm, expertise, hard work and dedication of our respective partners Amey and COLAS in bringing the collaboration together.
  • The appointment of two strong project managers to move the project in the right direction.
  • The collaborative involvement of our many partners from industry, academia and innovation including SCOTS, Future Highways Research Group (FHRG), Connected Places Catapult (CPC), Thinks Insight and the University of Nottingham.

However, for me, the real stars of the show are the software we are using: Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.

Microsoft Teams has allowed us to communicate with ease from the comfort of our own homes. This has been an essential lifeline used by many councils and businesses all over the country.

Also, the development of SharePoint has allowed us to share and work on documents collaboratively, making changes and decisions in real time. These two software programs, which were relatively new to local authorities in Scotland pre-Covid19, have undoubtedly changed our ability to collaborate with each other both internally and externally within the council.

The future and next steps

To further expand the collaboration, innovation and information sharing between local authorities across the UK, we will:

  • identify innovations.
  • share knowledge throughout the public and private sectors via our extensive network of partners.
  • build an industry trusted review process.
  • break down barriers for innovation.
  • trial innovation on live local authority networks.
  • adapt standards and specification to promote low carbon options.

Ultimately, through collaborative working, we hope to build a united approach to reducing our future carbon emissions, creating a better environment for future generations.

Further information


  • Elaine Nicol, Roads Maintenance Manager at North Lanarkshire Council

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