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Live Labs Blog: Buckinghamshire’s final round up & lessons learnt

Buckinghamshire Council’s Live Lab aimed to develop new SMART approaches for the local highway network across communications, materials, energy solutions and mobility. Paul Waite provides an overview.

Over the past couple of years, we have worked on several exciting opportunities including:

  • Gulley sensors and a flood management system – the application of smart drainage technology to allow a proactive response to prevent surface water sewer overflows. The deployment of ultrasonic gully sensors provides remote real-time detection of water level and blockages in the drainage network.
  • Wind and kinetic road – using column-mounted wind turbines and kinetic road technology (developed by the University of Lancaster) that generates electricity by using the kinetic movement of vehicles to power street lighting columns without the need for mains power.
  • Adult social care sensors – an application that allows for real-time monitoring of vulnerable residents with care packages in place. Using sensors in the home this deployment is classed as a proof of concept because the solution is still evolving, and we are currently trialling the application with the use of volunteers.

Lessons Learnt

This exciting and ambitious project didn’t always run according to plan, and although we are nearing a successful conclusion, we have learnt a lot and would like to share our reflections. Delivering such an innovative project amidst local government reorganisation and the global pandemic presented unforeseen and unique challenges.

Procurement timescales and processes had a significant impact on the Bucks Live Lab, which delayed a number of the trials. The procurement approach taken was a one size fits all and this created its own issues. Exploring ways this could be improved in the future would reduce the barriers to adopting innovative solutions.

Buckinghamshire Council also commissioned a significant number of new technologies rather than procuring system integrator companies to manage a whole system. Upon reflection, this increased management time for the authority and increased the level of risk. The difficulty, project management resources and timescales involved in procuring innovative technology solutions in volume from small businesses were also underestimated and required considerable relationship management. 

During the three year delivery programme, the Council was also being restructured into a unitary authority. This resulted in changes to the wider group of stakeholders, and also introduced more risk with insight and expertise being lost as roles within the organisation evolved and shifted. 

Succession planning is essential - the project experienced changes in the sponsorship and management of the project over its lifetime.  Although the project is nearing a successful conclusion, an element of the original vision was lost during these handovers. 

Legacy needs to be planned in from the outset and a benefits realisation plan should be in place from an early stage of the project. Use cases should have been designed from, the beginning to ensure that they contributed to strategic objectives and enabled decision making at project completion.

ADEPT provided a fantastic level of support to the Buckinghamshire Council delivery team with a framework for support and governance as well as constructive advice. The ability to adapt and work across the council and with partners has been a real positive from the project as it enabled us to problem solve and identify alternative approaches quickly and effectively. 

We have all immensely enjoyed working on such a unique project and we hope that the pitfalls we came across can be used as positive lessons learnt as we undertake future innovation projects, as well as offering some learning for prospective local authorities embarking on similar schemes.

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