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£30M for innovative projects to decarbonise UK highways

Future roads could be built using asphalt made from grass cuttings and ‘carbon capturing’ cement, following funding being awarded to seven innovative, net zero projects.

The projects are spread across the UK, from Lanarkshire to Devon, and have been awarded funding through the Live Labs 2: Decarbonising Local Roads competition. The programme supports projects led by local highways authorities focused on tackling the long-term decarbonisation of highways infrastructure, such as streetlights, and transforming local authorities’ approach to decarbonising roads.

The winning projects include cutting carbon emissions from our streetlights to producing asphalt made from green waste like grass cuttings. Other projects plan to drive changes to the design, construction and maintenance of typical UK highway construction, as well as plans to develop a first-of-its-kind system approach to creating a net carbon negative model for green infrastructure delivery.

Roads Minister Richard Holden said: “The UK is a world leader in technology and innovation and we must use that strength to drive decarbonisation and the next generation of high tech jobs that go alongside it.

“We are supporting this vital agenda to help level-up through £30 million funding for ground-breaking projects and boosting regional connections to support growth.

“The government is determined to create good, well paid jobs – via innovation and investment across the UK – as we accelerate the road to net zero.”

The successful local highways authorities and their partners will be provided funding, subject to due diligence, to develop, test, pilot and roll out new technologies to facilitate decarbonisation, including in supply chain emissions. The successful bids are:

  • Highways CO2llaboration Centre for materials decarbonisation, Transport for West Midlands: supporting upskilling and developing a team in the West Midlands to decarbonise highways via 2 initiatives, including a ‘Highways CO2llaboration Centre’, and demonstrator sites showcasing and monitoring innovative decarbonised highway materials
  • UK Centre of Excellence for Material Decarbonisation in Local Roads, North Lanarkshire Council: creating a centre that will develop a materials testing programme identifying and deploying the latest tech for road construction, in addition to testing and deploying recycled materials from other industries to build roads
  • a net carbon-negative model for green infrastructure management, South Gloucestershire Council and West Sussex County Council: aims to develop a first-of-its-kind approach to creating a net carbon negative model for building and delivering green infrastructure, for example recycling biomass from green waste
  • A382 Carbon Negative Project, Devon County Council: aims to drive changes to the design, construction and maintenance in typical aspects of highway construction to reduce carbon emissions, and to build a new link road including walking and cycling options
  • Ecosystem of Things, Liverpool City Council: aims to introduce an ‘Ecosystem of Things’, exploring a scalable and transferrable approach to understanding various systems (including design, public spaces, materials/process technology, recycling infrastructure and the legal, contractual and procurement processes) at city level to embed and adopt decarbonisation initiatives
  • decarbonising street lighting, East Riding of Yorkshire Council: plans to work on increasing efficiency for low carbon lighting to make sure they can still be clearly seen by drivers and to create a framework for an alternative manual for highway lighting, signing and road marking
  • Net Zero Corridors, Wessex Partnership: will pioneer net zero roads that are built without creating more carbon emissions overall in Somerset, Cornwall, and Hampshire in 9 ‘net zero corridors’ linking rural and urban areas

Live Labs 2 is funded by the Department of Transport (DfT) and organised by The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT), which represents ‘directors of place’ who are responsible for providing day-to-day services, such as local highways, as well as strategic long-term delivery.

Mark Kemp, President of ADEPT, said: “Tackling the carbon impact of our highways’ infrastructure is critical to our path to net zero but hard to address, so I am pleased that bidding was so competitive. Live Labs 2 has a huge ambition – to fundamentally change how we embed decarbonisation into our decision-making and to share our learning with the wider sector to enable behaviour change. Each project will bring local authority led innovation and a collaborative approach to create a long-lasting transformation of business as usual.  I am looking forward to the opportunity to learn from our successful bidders and taking that into my own organisation.”

This programme follows the previous and successful Live Labs 1, a £22.9 million innovation programme that focused on adoption of digital technology across the local roads sector in England.

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