Highways bosses drive £14.5m research programme

National Highways chief executive Nick Harris and prof Ioannis Brilakis of the University of Cambridge hold the signed charter with representatives from the other partners in the new alliance.

A new research alliance has been launched to lead a £14.5m programme which will help shape the development of innovation in the highways industry over the next five years.

National Highways and 20 companies from its supply chain have joined forces in the Roads Research Alliance to define and develop a portfolio of innovative projects for the roads sector.

Research already underway includes using robots and semi-automation to carry out roadside tasks and protect the safety of workers, maximising the use of waste materials in road construction and the potential introduction of low carbon self-healing concrete roads.

Working in partnership with the University of Cambridge and Costain, National Highways has been given £5.5m of funding for a five-year programme to support research in such areas as digital roads, sustainability, automation and carbon reduction.

Funding has been provided by both the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the EU Marie Sklodowska Curie Action (MSCA) to co-fund programme for the work.

National Highways has also reached out to organisations across the sector for a collective approach to help define the research required to tackle some of the challenges faced both now and going forward.

Bringing real-world insight from within the industry, the partners will share their experience and knowledge as well as identifying the areas where innovation is needed and drive research in that direction. Additional contributions from alliance partners brings the research fund total to £14.5m.

The alliance was formally launched at St Catherine’s College in Cambridge yesterday (27 September) when the 22 members signed a charter setting out the commitments and expectations on partners to enable effective co-operation and support the research projects.

National Highways chief executive Nick Harris said: “We were already committed to delivering the research project and had funding in place, but rather than simply go forward alone, we wanted to work collaboratively with our supply chain and deliver a more joined-up approach to better address the challenges our sector faces.

“So we are using the research project as the foundation for the Roads Research Alliance enabling us to bring together National Highways, the research and development teams and our supply chain to focus on the development and deployment of many of these innovations.

“Together we can develop ideas that will increase safety on our network as well as improving how we design, maintain, operate and build roads. 

“This is the first time National Highways has formed an alliance like this to deliver research and we are looking forward to seeing the exciting results.”

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