Small businesses in Staffordshire will support the creation of innovative transport improvements at a university ‘living lab’ following a successful government funding bid by a county council-led partnership.
The £1.9 million ‘live lab’ project at Keele University will develop, test and demonstrate how a smart highways network can be designed, maintained and extended to local roads.
The project, which includes the university, county council highways partner Amey and Urban Integrated Ltd, will bring in innovative SMEs to deliver the scheme.
The joint bid to the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport’s (ADEPT) for SMART Place Live Labs for the DfT funding was announced yesterday as one of seven successful ones from 28 submissions.
Keele’s campus, which already has all the elements of a small town with roads, residences, leisure centres and green spaces, will act as a ‘living laboratory’ to find new ways to keep people on the move in a more sustainable way.
The site includes round 3,100 residential students, 1,000 employees on the science and innovation park, 200 ‘standard’ domestic households and academic activities serving 10,000 students.
Not only will innovative small businesses be involved at Keele and benefitting the wider economy, but students on site will support the scheme as part of their studies. Successful new developments could then benefit communities across Staffordshire and the rest of the country.
The project will see a smart infrastructure network developed on the campus roads with a control centre set up to create the live lab. It will develop and test new technology to reduce congestion and road incidents, improve road user experience and improve both sustainable transport and air quality.
The Keele campus, which replicates a ‘small town’, has already been selected for a smart energy network demonstrator – a research and development project to discover how new technologies can be used in the energy sector to improve efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and drive down costs.
Both schemes strengthen the New Keele Deal between the university, county council and other partners which started in 2016. It utilises the university’s academic and innovative strengths to improve the local economy, job creation and community health.
Staffordshire County Council’s Highways and Transport Leader Helen Fisher said: “The Living Lab project is exciting not just for Staffordshire but for transport innovation and community improvement nationwide.
“We have a strong working relationship with Keele University through our deal and with Amey as our highways delivery partner. Innovative solutions can improve efficiency both for highways managers and residents, drive down costs and improve air quality leading to better health.
“It is fantastic to be able to use the ‘small town’ that exists as part of the university campus to create the living laboratory whilst at the same time benefiting local small business and students’ research.
“We look forward to discovering how new technologies can be used and how they complement each other to improve community highways and road users’ experiences and their health.”
Mark Ormerod, Keele University Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, said: “Keele University is delighted to part of the Staffordshire Live Labs project, which will make full use of both our academic expertise and our unique campus environment.
“The project will build on our existing ‘living laboratory’ projects, such as our landmark Smart Energy Network Demonstrator, which are transforming the UK’s largest single-site campus into the perfect location to develop, test and demonstrate the latest Smart and sustainable technologies.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The trials will see how new technologies work in the real world to ensure our roads are built for the 21st century.”