Motorway traffic in the UK

Government to invest £30m into highway decarbonisation projects

A number of pioneering decarbonisation projects on the UK highways are set to be supported by a £30m investment by the Government.

Funded by the Department for Transport (DfT), the Live Labs 2 competition is looking for cutting-edge, innovative ideas to decarbonise the country’s highways and supporting infrastructure.

There is to be a particular focus on projects aimed at making the construction, maintenance and running of the UK’s roads more sustainable.

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Investing in innovation is a priority for this government. That’s why we’re supporting local highways authorities to develop cutting-edge projects and help drive our decarbonisation mission.  

“Our £30m investment will go towards a greener, safer transport landscape. It will help create green, high-skilled jobs across the country and I look forward to seeing these innovative ideas brought to life.”

The launch of the second round of the competition follows the success seen in the first Live Labs programme, launched in May 2019 with a £22.9m investment and which supported the creation of eight local projects testing innovative solutions on local roads.

Previous projects included:

  • fibre cables that detect vibrations from vehicles and dynamically change signal junctions to combat congestion
  • trials involving drones to detect potholes in Kent
  • plastic roads in Cumbria to boost value for money in the construction of highways

Staffordshire County Council was able to secure the expertise of two industry leaders to install plant-based living walls to tackle roadside emissions, while Buckinghamshire Council and Suffolk County Council were able to use funding support to find an innovative social care solution using technology typically found on our nation’s roads.

The local authorities were able to demonstrate how the application of smart transport technology could offer greater social value than first anticipated.

This was achieved by repurposing road sensors, typically used to monitor traffic volumes and weather conditions, to be used in adult social care.

Live Labs 2 is once again being organised by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), and is the latest move in the Government’s drive to create cleaner air and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Paula Hewitt, ADEPT President, said: “ADEPT is delighted to be able to move ahead on Live Labs 2 with this new round of DfT funding and support. The highways and transport sector is the UK’s single biggest carbon emitter and although we are seeing a transition to electric vehicles, there is a huge gap where we are yet to tackle road infrastructure and maintenance.

“Local authorities are perfectly placed to lead the drive to create net zero highways and local roads from the bottom up. The Live Labs format has proven particularly successful for highways authorities, enabling rapid change, innovation and experimentation.

“Following the success of the first ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme, Live Labs 2 aims to build on the partnerships between DfT, councils, commercial partners, SMEs and academia to deliver scalable zero carbon objectives with potential for commercialisation and applicability to diverse areas across the UK.”

Government is supporting the ADEPT Live Labs initiative as a way to invest effectively into decarbonising the UK’s highways.

By issuing significant investments for each project, the fund aims to help local highways authorities and enterprises develop and propel their ideas to market even quicker.


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