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Transforming local places – ADEPT’s Live Labs innovation programme End of Year One report

4 November 2020

The ADEPT Smart Places Live Labs programme – led by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) has published its End of Year One report.

Following on from its first White Paper, the report charts the progress of the £22.9 million Department for Transport (DFT) funded programme and each of the eight Live Labs since May 2019. The programme is also supported by project partners SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP.

Although well underway before the pandemic, the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 have posed significant challenges. The initial lockdown period affected manufacturers, shipping and the supply chain, as well as the impacts of furlough and social distancing on work on the ground. 

As each case study shows, teams have repeatedly overcome these issues to begin trials and project work in over 115 locations, working online and remotely and with real determination to find new solutions and innovations. Over 70 suppliers drawn from sectors including data suppliers and analytics, composites, geothermal, solar and kinetic energy, drones and micromobility have partnered up with the Live Labs teams. 

Adjusting to this new environment has led, in some cases, to a refocusing of project outcomes. For example, one Live Lab is now looking into the positive impacts on air quality of less traffic during the first lockdown to evaluate how the benefits of reduced traffic can be maintained.

As each project develops, teams are also finding unlooked for new innovation and wider benefits, including the use of sensors for adult social care. 

The range of projects and trials being developed by each Live Labs team aim to show how new technologies and digital innovation can be adopted at scale by local authorities, both nationally and internationally. 

Trials include innovations such as large scale sensor deployment and use of data analytics, harvesting kinetic energy from pavements to power digital screens and provide public charging points, using thermal energy to de-ice carparks, creating composite recycled lighting columns and testing the environmental sustainability & quality of using waste plastics in roads.

Live Labs Programme Director, Giles Perkins said: “This End of Year report is a major milestone for the Live Labs programme, especially given the unexpected impacts of COVID-19. Our Live Labs cohort have made incredible progress towards our goal of achieving at-scale innovation across the widest spectrum of the local roads sector. 

“As we push into our second full year, we’ll be sharing more insights, learnings and knowledge as the programme not only delivers innovation but the outcomes from these investments to help others capitalise on DfT’s £23m investment.”

Neil Gibson, Chair of the Live Labs Commissioning Board, said: “Since May 2019, each Live Labs has tackled the many challenges coming from having to work innovatively and at speed, with the knowledge that success, for this programme, does not come from following the tried and trusted path. 

“From rapid procurement and set up to working within a pandemic, each team has had to work creatively, reconfiguring and learning as they go. Now we are over 12 months in and well into the trial stages, each project is coming alive. The next phase will demonstrate what each technical and digital innovation can offer local authorities and their communities as we establish how each may be adopted at scale.”

The eight Live Labs are being led by Buckinghamshire County Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Cumbria County Council, Reading Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, alongside joint projects by Solihull Council, Birmingham City Council, Transport for West Midlands, and Kent and Staffordshire County Councils. 

ADEPT represents local authority, county, unitary and metropolitan Directors. The Live Labs initiative is part of ADEPT’s SMART Places programme to support the use of digital technology in place-based services. 

The Live Labs End of Year One report can be found here.