Live Labs ‘come alive’ with a year to go


The ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme has identified four ‘stretch’ aspirations for the next year, with the importance of communications at the forefront.

The £23m government-funded programme has published its End of Year One report, which covers activity in 115 areas across eight Live Labs.


The projects, led by local authorities with university and private sector partners, are piloting innovation across SMART communications, transport, highways maintenance, energy, materials and mobility.

Over 70 suppliers drawn from sectors including data suppliers and analytics, composites, geothermal, solar and kinetic energy, drones and micromobility have partnered with the projects.

Reflecting the impact of the pandemic, the Department for Transport has extended the two-year programme from its original deadline of next May to November 2021.

According to the report, formal reviews of the have identified four emerging themes, ‘which we see as important stretch aspirations for our Live Labs between now and the programme end in November 2021’.

There are: the importance of communications; learn to share intelligence and ask for help; capitalising on innovation; and developing the Live Labs brand.

The report states: ‘One of the themes that has emerged is the need to make internal and external communications an intrinsic part of business as usual. The link between this type of innovation project and the wider aims and objectives of lead local authorities, sub-national bodies and central government, is part of the potential catalyst to accelerated change.'

In addition, around two-thirds of projects fall under the theme of communications.

Programme director Giles Perkins said: ‘This End of Year report is a major milestone for the Live Labs programme, especially given the unexpected impacts of COVID-19. Our Live Labs cohort have made incredible progress towards our goal of achieving at-scale innovation across the widest spectrum of the local roads sector.

‘As we push into our second full year, we’ll be sharing more insights, learnings and knowledge as the programme not only delivers innovation but the outcomes from these investments to help others capitalise on DfT’s £23m investment.’

Neil Gibson, chair of the Live Labs Commissioning Board, said: “Since May 2019, each Live Labs has tackled the many challenges coming from having to work innovatively and at speed, with the knowledge that success, for this programme, does not come from following the tried and trusted path.

‘From rapid procurement and set up to working within a pandemic, each team has had to work creatively, reconfiguring and learning as they go. Now we are over 12 months in and well into the trial stages, each project is coming alive.

‘The next phase will demonstrate what each technical and digital innovation can offer local authorities and their communities as we establish how each may be adopted at scale.’

The eight Live Labs are being led by Buckinghamshire CC, Central Bedfordshire Council, Cumbria CC, Reading BC, Suffolk CC, alongside joint projects by Solihull Council, Birmingham City Council, Transport for West Midlands, and Kent and Staffordshire county councils.

The programme is supported by project partners SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP.


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