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National Highways launches new innovation accelerator for SMEs



One of the biggest conundrums facing the construction industry is how to get innovative ideas from small players at the bottom of supply chains up to project level. How can a new product or technology get through all the necessary approvals and bureaucracy, especially when systems are based around doing things the good, old-fashioned way?


It’s a problem that we at Thermal Road Repairs have experienced first-hand. We have been lucky to have support from some important Tier 1 contractors along the way. Others may not be so lucky which means that their innovative ideas never fulfil their potential.


So, we were pleased to hear the news that there is a £1.7m fund up for grabs, aimed to nurture innovations from other SMEs that will help National Highways along the road to its 2040 net zero carbon emissions goal. Launched in partnership with Connected Places Catapult, the National Highways Accelerating Low Carbon Innovation Programme is looking to support 10 SMEs and up to five Tier 1 organisations that are developing innovations in-house or working in a consortium with an SME.


National Highways is looking for innovations in three areas:

  • Alternative materials or techniques to cement, concrete, asphalt and steel which reduce emissions by at least 50%.

  • Innovations that improve asset management decision so that whole life costs and carbon are taken into consideration and innovations that help with maintenance and intervention planning.

  • Ways to reuse and recycle materials, especially those that aren’t currently recycled to their highest values; also, ideas that contribute to design for deconstruction.

Additionally, there is an open challenge for any innovations in any category that can help cut carbon. These could include ideas in categories such as waste reduction, modular construction, analytics or changes to standards.


The programme will be in two phases. In phase 1, 10 SMEs will be awarded between £15,000 and £30,000 to develop trial proposals with National Highways and its Tier 1 suppliers. In phase 2, five of those will go forward to receive a further £80,000 to help them trial their solutions and for business development.


Ideally the innovation should be between technology readiness levels (TRLs) 3 and 5 now. TRL level 3 is experimental proof of concept, level 4 being technology validated in lab and level 5 being technology validated in a relevant environment.


The application deadline has now passed, but we are excited to see who the lucky SMEs are that have made it through to phase 1, and what they can bring to the table to help better the industry.

 

Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. It invests significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve existing ones.

Thermal Road Repairs: Decarbonising the asphalt repair industry.

High output. Low emission. Zero waste. Permanent solution.

 

Sources:

https://nationalhighways.co.uk/article/grants-totalling-110-000-available-to-help-with-net-zero-bid/

https://cp.catapult.org.uk/opportunity/national-highways-accelerating-low-carbon-innovation-programme/

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