The Insider: Martin Duffy talks...innovation

13/09/2019
Martin Duffy

Has 'innovation' simply become a meaningless buzzword? Martin Duffy – director of D2M2 - discusses how we can make real change happen.

Innovation – a time for change

The desire to provide products and services across the highways sector that are faster, better and cheaper is a number one priority for clients and providers alike.

Whether it’s a drive to improve safety for the workforce and travelling public or the desire to speed up construction activities or incident clear-up times, the intention is well meant and while this is all very commendable I’m not too sure the pace of change is something for us to be proud of.

Is this 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? Having been in the industry for over 35 years I’ve heard all of these reasons given at some time or another, and ashamedly have used some of them myself on the odd occasion.

Apathy – over the years I have worked in both the public and private sector as a consultant and contractor and built up some lifelong friendships with likeminded enthusiastic individuals who are committed to making things better in the highways industry. I’ve also met some individuals in client and provider organisations who believe that compliance is king and change is just simply too risky to explore, let alone implement. This is a behaviour we need to address not just by changing processes but by changing attitudes.

Capability – innovation is not always about the invention of something new but can often be about the application (usually with a few modifications) of a material, process or piece of equipment that is in widespread use in another industry. In order to create a more innovative culture we need greater diversity in the workforce, particularly at the senior levels and of equal importance more leaders from industries other than highways to generate fresh thinking and to challenge our norms.

Funding - I’ve witnessed many occasions where clients are asked to fund ideas that are not sufficiently thought through by the ‘innovator’, and which then subsequently fail after considerable financial investment.

While we would never want to stifle ideas, I believe clients should only pay for innovations following successful trials to demonstrate they actually deliver the outcome being sought. After all, would you be happy to buy an autonomous vehicle that the salesman claimed would improve your journey experience and keep you safe, despite the fact it had only been trialled on a deserted airfield somewhere in Arizona?

As I’m guessing your answer is ‘no’, perhaps a more appropriate way to share the risk around buying something new is for providers to develop the ideas and for clients to offer up their networks for the necessary trials. If this process was embraced, both parties would reap the benefits and deliver the innovation quicker.

Standards – I would never dare suggest we should flout our standards in the name of innovation as this could have a detrimental effect to our safety record – which incidentally still needs to improve. What I would suggest is that we need to look again at ways to speed up our ability to change standards that are quite obviously blocking or reducing that pace at which we can introduce new technologies, materials or processes.

It’s not all bad news – we are starting to see a shift in service delivery models that is resulting in a much stronger link between clients and their supply chains which is further exposing the innovative capabilities of Tier 2 and 3 organisations by developing new relationships at this level. These new communities are likely to encourage innovation and help to speed up the rate at which it is delivered.

Also, I was proud to be at the Local Council Roads Improvement Group (LCRIG) conference earlier this week. It was a fine example of the sharing proven technologies and innovations across multiple authorities by numerous innovative providers – well done Blackpool Council for leading the charge. In conclusion, while the direction of travel is positive, if we don’t make more of these changes we are likely to frustrate those who hold the purse strings making it even more difficult to attract our share of the funds.

Perhaps we should look to embrace such changes in the Roads Sector Deal, raised by Steve Berry of the Department for Transport at the LCRIG conference, to demonstrate to government that we are committed to continual improvement.

Highways jobs

Air Quality Monitoring Project Manager

Birmingham City Council
£34,788 - £42,683
Seeking a skilled and dedicated individual with a background in environmental protection and air quality to... Birmingham, West Midlands
Recruiter: Birmingham City Council

Environmental Health Officer

Camden London Borough Council
Competitive Salary
The ideal candidate will have a detailed knowledge /understanding of the Housing Act 2004, and other legislation that... Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Assistant Engineer or Engineer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£25,327 - £36,036 depending on skills
We have an exciting opportunity for a permanent Assistant Engineer/Engineer within the traffic and engineering division to... London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Head of Infrastructure, Sustainability & Transport

The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead
Up to £93k
This is a new role that will focus on the development of a cohesive transport and infrastructure strategy for the borough... Windsor, Berkshire
Recruiter: The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

Senior Engineer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£35,246 - £45,704 depending on skills
Are you an experienced traffic or highway engineer with a good track record in the delivery of traffic, public realm and/or parking schemes? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Senior Traffic Orders Officer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£35,246 - £42,710 depending on skills
Do you have experience of working for a local authority processing and delivering traffic management orders? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Roadworks Inspector

Transport for London
£32,500 plus substantial benefits
You’ll review thousands of roadworks reports sent by other operational TfL staff and the Met Police andñ... Southwark, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Transport for London

Head of Planning Policy, Transport & Infrastructure Planning

Berwick Partners
Competitive Salary
This is a senior position within Be First’s Planning & Building Control Team, and you will... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Berwick Partners

Transportation Engineer

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£29,636 - £33,799 per annum
Applicants should hold an appropriate qualification, preferably to degree level, and have knowledge of transportation issues. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Trading Standards Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£36,630 - £42,490 per annum
Seeking to recruit highly motivated and experienced Trading Standards Officer’s to join our busy Business and Consumer Services team. Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Nature Conservation Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£36,630 - £42,490
Exciting opportunity now exists for a dynamic nature conservation professional, to be the lead officer for the Council in all matters relating to Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Environmental Health Officer/Enforcement

Brent Council
£35,724 - £41,706 p.a. inc.
Looking to recruit an Environmental Health Officer / Enforcement Officer preferably with experience of... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Surface Water Engineer (Maternity Cover)

Essex County Council
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Excellent Benefits Package
The Surface Water Engineer contributes to the development and implementation of strategic plans, policy and best practice to improve the Council's knowledge and understanding of surface water flood risk and methods of management. England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Highways Project Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£32,878 - 35,934 per annum
Exciting opportunity to provide technical highway input into all stages of development, within the... Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Highway Maintenance Senior Professional and Technical Officer - Level 1

Bristol City Council
£27,905 - £31,371
The job involves project managing and assisting senior colleagues with coordinating tasks and projects, using appropriate techniques to ensure.... City of Bristol
Recruiter: Bristol City Council

Highways Inspector

Hackney London Borough Council
£28,752 - £32,577
Seeking an experienced Highways Inspector to join the Highways Team. London (Greater)
Recruiter: Hackney London Borough Council

Street Lighting Technical Administrator

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£25,327 - £33,554 depending on skills
Are you looking for working arrangements that enhance your work-life balance? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Environmental Protection Officer

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£24,313 - £28,785 per annum
Looking to recruit officers to further strengthen our pool of Environmental Protection Officers who are responsible for... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Citizen & Consumer Protection Officer – Environmental Health x2

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£29,636 - £33,799 per annum
Looking for a suitably qualified and competent Environmental Health Officer or Food Safety / Health and Safety Officer registered with the... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Senior Pest Control Officer (Commercial)

Brent Council
£33,291 - £35,724 p.a. inc.
Looking for a pest control officer that bring additional expertise to the team and support the manager in developing and supporting our clients. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Highways on Fridays

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

 

  • New guidance for inspectors
  • Filling the funding hole
  • Traffex Scotland and Bridges Scotland preview
View the latest issue

Latest Video