ADEPT publishes 'invaluable' live labs report


The ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs Programme has published its final programme review, which highlights the successes and difficulties experienced by the trials over nearly three years.

The eight Live Labs set out to trial innovation in the management and maintenance of local highways across data and communications, materials, energy and mobility, backed by £22.9m from the Department for Transport (DfT).

The programme included trials using kinetic, thermal and solar energy; sensors and drones to assess local roads' maintenance needs; data analytics to support air quality management, congestion and travel planning; and waste plastics for road surfacing.

Council directors’ body ADEPT said the report, written by Karen Farquharson of Proving Services, ‘highlights the learnings, outcomes and challenges encountered by each Live Lab and how they created new and often complex partnerships, implemented new technologies and found new applications, even moving into adult social care’.

It added that the independent report, which includes evaluations of each programme, ‘does not shy away from some of the issues individual Live Labs encountered, particularly in procurement, but also with supply chains, partnerships and the initial project scope causing delays’.

Neil Gibson, chair of the Live Labs Commissioning Board, said local authorities would find the report ‘invaluable in determining their own routes to innovation’.

He said: ‘It is as important to understand why trials didn’t work out and the skills, approaches and mindset needed to introduce new technologies, as it is to showcase success.’

Ms Farquharson said: ‘From the start, the ethos of the programme has been on shared and disseminated learning. This applies not just to the project outcomes but the way the innovation is funded, structured and delivered.

‘The individual Live Labs and their delivery partners, together with the Live Lab programme team, have been forthcoming and transparent about their successes and the challenges they have faced. These have been documented and will benefit considerably future, similar initiatives.’

On top of the technological side, ADEPT said it examined how behavioural and cultural change, cross-authority collaboration and re-evaluating risk are essential for successful local authority innovation.

Next steps for the programme include the publication of individual business cases from each Live Lab to enable local authorities to assess the suitability and potential commercialisation of an innovation for its area. These are accessible via a portal hosted by Suffolk County Council.

The eight Live Labs are being led by Buckinghamshire Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Cumbria County Council, Reading Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, alongside joint projects by Solihull Council and Birmingham City Council (West Midlands), and Kent and Staffordshire County Councils. The programme is supported by project partners Atkins, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP.

Earlier this month the DfT announced a second round of Live Labs, backed by £30m of government cash.

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