New Innovation Fund launched in memory of Steve Berry

Martin Duffy

Chief executive of LCRIG and chair of NY Highways, Martin Duffy (pictured), announces the launch of a £150,000 innovation fund dedicated to the late head of local roads at the Department for Transport (DfT), Steve Berry, and funded by road marking company WJ.

Delivering innovation at a national level is one of the biggest challenges facing the roads sector.

Roads and assets currently managed by local authorities hold a wealth of valuable data. The health of these ‘assets’ can be driven into to allow for more efficient predictive maintenance strategies and to help direct future investment in the network.

But this must be done in partnership with the private sector. I’ve spoken previously about the need for change around innovation and am delighted to announce that the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) has just launched the LCRIG/Steve Berry Think Exceptional Innovation Fund.

Sponsored by WJ, this £150,000 fund will be available to local highway authorities, universities, and private sector companies and innovative individuals who can apply for funding via a simple two-stage application process on the LCRIG website.

First and foremost, I am absolutely delighted that WJ has agreed to finance this fund. Over the years their team have shown themselves to be at the forefront of innovation and it is a testament to their management team that they’re putting up a significant amount of money to help accelerate further innovation across the road surface treatments industry.

So how will this be facilitated? Work has been going on in the background at LCRIG to put together an Infrastructure Innovation Board.

The board has been set up to seek out new products/materials that can be trialled on the highway network and to strengthen the link between suppliers and contractors. The individuals on the board represent a range of different client organisations including central government, local authorities, Highways England, trade associations and utility companies.

Members of this board, including a representative from WJ, will assess the initial funding applications and vote on which proposals to support.

In a previous article for Highways, I highlighted my frustrations around the pace of change in the sector and asked if this was a result of apathy, limited capability, lack of funding or simply the belief that we are not empowered to challenge our well-established processes and standards. 

While this innovation fund won’t provide all the answers, one thing it will do is speed up and encourage innovation in the roads surface treatment space.

Recently LCRIG put out a communication to our associate members asking a question about innovative products and services. We asked the members if any of them had any new innovations they would like to present to our Infrastructure Innovation Board.

In less than 24 hours we were met with more than 50 responses from members who wanted to put themselves forward to share their innovations with LCRIG. This shows the level of pent-up demand for companies and organisations to find appropriate routes to market for their products and services. For me, the timing of this initiative could not be better as it will help accelerate the rate at which innovation is adopted and delivered.

With the link between clients and their supply chains getting stronger, this will further expose the innovative capabilities of Tier 2 and 3 organisations by developing new relationships at this level.

Going forward, I can see others getting involved with the administration of other innovation funds which could be targeted at different market segments such as street lighting technology, signal technology, traffic management, etc.

LCRIG president Will Britain is also excited about the fund and said: 'Anything that can be done to help speed up innovation should be welcomed.

'We are delighted to have the support of WJ and look forward to receiving applications for funding in this space. Over the years WJ has shown themselves to be a forward-thinking and innovative business and we look forward to them playing a key role in helping to try and cut away at the layers of delay that can often stifle innovation. Our Board members will offer clear and constructive feedback and are looking forward to assessing funding applications.'

Ultimately, this is about innovation delivering value across the whole market. LCRIG’s initiative with WJ is an example of a supplier working alongside a client to deliver change. These types of collaborative partnerships will be key going forward as the sector aims to Build Back Better from the pandemic. For me it is important that innovation is scaled up and becomes part of businesses' DNA.

Applications for funding are now being welcomed with the expected duration of the fund set to last approximately a year.

So don’t delay, the time for change is now. If you are an innovator who is hungry to get their ideas heard and make a change then come forward now. From small acorns great oaks grow.


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