Blog | 19 July 2023
Innovation Festival 2023
Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival 2023
The annual innovation festival provides a platform for participants to showcase cutting-edge technologies, share ideas, and develop creative approaches to address pressing issues such as Street works. The event is now in its seventh year and continues to grow and expand its reach, with a record turnout numbers recorded.
This year, Cyclomedia partnered with Northumbrian Water to present the 4 day ‘Kiss the Tarmac’ sprint where we had over 50 participants, stakeholders and industry experts focus on identifying the challenges and solutions that may help improve the Street Works process across the UK.
What do local government, utilities, highways, road users and civilians all have in common? Street Works, Maintenance and Re-Instatements.
The road network is the biggest infrastructure asset in the UK. As we continue to rely more and more on our roading network infrastructure and require even more utility installations; our dependency on the availability, safety and environmental impact of our roads is critical for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. An estimated £1 Billion is spent fixing UK roads every year including repairing 1.7 million potholes. In addition to routine road maintenance, utilities are required to complete road re-instatements after works are complete - one water utility has 144,000 dig sites each year!
Numbers of utility digs is forecasted to increase over the coming years with nationwide fibre roll out, utility mains replacements and climate change. With local authorities' budgets already stretched, how can things ever be expected to improve? To identfy specific challenges and solutions, Cyclomedia designed sprint sessions where we had over 50 participants, stakeholders and industry experts focus on how to improve Street Works processes across the UK.
Day 1 - challenges
We kicked off day 1 by hearing from NWG’s Suzi Tanrikuli about the challenges faced by utilities when managing reinstatements. This helped start a lively discussion around how other participating industries are impacted. Who knew opening the road can reduce a roads structural life by up to 30%, even when the reinstatement is done correctly!
Once we’d heard about the scale of the problem and its impact, we started to explore the process and the pain points. Nicolina Cooper, from Future Traffic Solutions provided insights into the challenges from a local authorities’ perspective; and David Kingdom from United Living introduced those of us less familiar with the process to the technicalities of backfilling a reinstatement. Dr Vikki Edmunson also presented some of her research and highlighted the impact climate change is having on our street works processes.
We also started our game of acronym bingo - this helped those of us not so familiar with the lingo and helped some win the highly coveted chocolate. By the end of day 1 we had mapped out the process and pain points and had selected the areas of the process we wanted to focus on.
Day 2 - exploring the process and pain points
Day 2 kicked off with Cyclomedia’s James Bateman and Michele Chincoli talking us through a Dutch example which highlighted that despite having the densest road network and most sub surface utilities, the Netherlands have one of the best road conditions in Europe.
We had lightning talks about products from 1Spatial, Greater London Authority, Kobus, and FYLD before we finalised quantifying the Resource Requirement and Impact of our ideas. Nicolina Cooper, from Future Traffic Solutions provided some insights into the challenges from a local authorities perspective; and David Kingdom from United Living introduced those of us less familiar with the process to the technicalities of backfilling a reinstatement. Dr Vikki Edmunson also presented some of her research and highlighted the impact climate change is having on our street works processes. Gabriele Caprotti from Greater London Authority (GLA) gave an overview of how the GLA is helping to promote the sharing of data and digs within London Boroughs.
Day 3 - Cyclomedia, on the road to better roads.
The final day was all about further exploring our favourite solutions, before forming a plan of action and deciding who is going to be in the driving seat. In smaller groups, we expanded what’s required for each solution, the benefits, challenges, and next steps. Each group then presented these back to a panel of judges. The feedback was beyond expectations and was very encouraging of progressing each of the ideas.
Who knew that opening up the road can reduce a roads structural life by up to 30%, even when the reinstatement is done correctly!
As a result of this sprint, we have identified 4 viable solutions that will help the Street Works teams in the UK. We were able to bring together a team of industry experts who will continue to work together, with the support of Cyclomedia and Northumbria Water to create POC’s - watch this space!
Cyclomedia would like to extend a huge thanks to everyone who made this Sprint a success:
Northumbrian Water Group
Sprint Facilitators, Amy & Suzie
Innovation Mentor, Clive
Laura and Pete from the Innovation Super Network who facilitated the sprint and not only kept us focussed, they also bought a lot of fun to the group