Future Highways Research Group

Future Highways Research Group

In 2014, Proving Services (Proving) established the Future Highways Research Club (FHRC) as a forum for sector thought leaders to share knowledge and experiences and identify, develop and assess innovations with the potential to transform the sector through the application of academic research frameworks and methods. In 2016, Proving separately launched the Value for Money (VfM) Benchmarking Club and the Value Analyser™ toolkit. In 2018, Proving and ADEPT formed an exclusive research partnership enabling all ADEPT members to access and participate in the research programmes and the VfM benchmarking club. In 2019, to reflect the expansion of its work and breadth of membership, the FHRC became the Future Highways Research Group (FHRG). The FHRG now has 34 local authority members.

Research Forums

The core FHRG membership meets quarterly at Cranfield University (virtually since March 2020), with the Spring and Autumn Innovation Conferences open to all ADEPT’s 90 associate FHRG members. The purpose of these meetings is to:

  • Provide a forum for sector thought leaders to share knowledge and experiences.
  • Identify, develop and assess innovations with the potential to transform the sector.
  • Applying academic research frameworks and methods.
  • Develop and pioneer transferrable methods, structures, tools and processes. As proven approaches; defining best practice.
  • Engage with new sector entrants. Including: energy generation, electric vehicle and served communities as delivery partners.
  • Attract funding for new concepts development and piloting. Bidding for innovation funding.
  • Publish our findings; ensuring members are recognised as sector innovators.

External speakers involved in new and innovative practices are invited to address the membership at each FHRG meeting. The membership determines the focus of its research by considering the challenges emerging for the sector and how it can best develop, test, refine and disseminate solutions for the benefit of the wider sector.

To maintain its strict independence, private sector providers to the sector are not eligible for membership of the FHRG. Private sector organisations are permitted to sponsor specific research programmes through the Research & Innovation Framework ensuring that knowledge and intellectual property can be freely shared for the benefits of all.

Research Programmes

Working within a robust academic framework, the FHRG’s pioneering local authority members have successfully hosted and conducted numerous research initiatives, concept trials and sector surveys. To date, the FHRG’s research activities have included:

  • Identification of over 50 commercialisation, cost recovery and cost offsetting options.
    • With an indicative total revenue potential of £16.3M p.a.
    • Initiatives include:
      • Total cost offsetting for street lighting using value-exchange solar farms.
      • Developing robust frameworks to provide paid-for access to the network and highways assets to the benefit of the local economy and served communities (engaging with 5G and green energy providers).
    • Development of an Excel based toolkit to enable authorities to create simple business cases to help select a short list of options for implementation.
  • Identification and ongoing assessment of over 40 climate emergency initiatives.
    • Reducing greenhouse gases and improving air quality.
    • Delivering financial and social, as well as environmental, benefits.
  • Design and implementation of advanced commissioning frameworks and highly optimised operating models.
    • Achieving better performance and better outcomes at significantly lower operating costs.
    • This includes creating tools and methods for supporting the emerging preference for function-level mixed economy operating models, comprising best-practice commissioning and an optimised blend of in-house and outsourced services.
  • Development of a portfolio of methods for community engagement and with key enabling processes.
    • From utilising volunteers to community payback resources to CSR funding.
  • Assessment of the efficacy and costs over 20 methods of communicating with the public.
    • Including broadcast and targeted methods.
    • Ensuring that the public are better connected and informed.
  • Development the Clarion pop-up street survey process.
    • To provide a low-cost, robust method of testing the attitudes, perceptions and priorities of citizens and served communities.
    • Reducing the reliance on externally sourced surveys and data.
  • Completion of a comprehensive assessment of the provider market and analysis of the relative benefits of 15 potential operating models.
    • Interviews with 13 tier one and two providers to understand their perceptions of and ambitions for the future of the highways sector.
    • Worked with nine highways commissioning authorities to evaluate the highest performing potential future operating models.
  • Reimagined ways of collaborating, beyond ISO 44001, using “mutuality” concepts.

Including the development of toolkit to enable to partners to identify opportunities to improve collaboration and deliver better outcomes.

In 2021, working with both local authority members and private sector provider partners, the FHRG has commenced research into two highly contemporary challenges for the sector, aiming to:

  • Develop guidance to support the consistent interpretation and measurement of SCOPE 1 & 2.
    • Critical to enabling highways authorities to achieve their goals around carbon reduction and air quality.
  • Develop shared solutions to the current challenges around human capital management.
    • An aging workforce and skills shortage is endemic across both public and private sector highways partners and presents a threat to medium term service sustainability.

 Value for Money Benchmarking

The combined Future Highways Research Group and VfM Benchmarking Club includes the option of a biennial, independently conducted and certified value for money assessment of highways services. To date, the research-based VfM assessment has been designed to provide detailed performance analysis in five key dimensions. The ‘factor set’, or key considerations underpinning each dimension, have been specifically tailored to the highways sector. An additional dimension can be applied to recognise the importance of best practice collaboration as a critical driver of good value for money.