National Highways announces winners of roadworks innovation competition

A trio of winning ideas are to be trialled with National Highways which will use the latest technology to help ease the pain of roadworks for drivers, businesses and local communities.

Three innovative technologies that promise to improve people’s experiences of roadworks have been selected for trial on England’s motorways and A-roads.

Each company will receive up to £60,000 to take their ideas forward in a competition launched by National Highways and supported by Connected Places Catapult.

The three winners are:

  • Cambridge-based Alchera Technologies which will use AI to improve roadwork planning by better understanding the impacts of different roadworks and road closures ensuring the best option for road users and reduced delays. They will be working with Costain.
  • RoboK, also based in Cambridge, will use AI-powered computer vision technology to analyse CCTV footage offering a better understanding of both road user and road worker behaviour and helping to improve people’s experiences of roadworks. This trial will be supported by Balfour Beatty.
  • WordNerds, of Gateshead, will provide new insights on people’s perception of roadworks using AI powered text-analytics which will help National Highways make evidence-based improvements on planned works. Kier and Costain are supporting this trial.

One of the goals of the competition was to allow smaller enterprises, which haven’t traditionally had the opportunity to work directly with National Highways and its supply chain, to showcase their ideas and win the chance to take them out on the road network. Earlier this year, 10 finalists received up to £15,000 each to investigate the feasibility of their ideas.

“We are putting them to the test on our network which will be the real challenge, but we are excited to see how well they perform and the difference they can make not only to road users but people living near ongoing works.

“Roadworks are frustrating but they are an essential part of managing our roads so anything we can do to ease the impact of these vital works is to be welcomed.”
Nicola Bell, National Highways Executive Director for Major Projects

The three trials will get under way in January. As well as funding to develop their projects, the winning ideas also get technical and commercial support from experts at Connected Places Catapult and National Highways to help develop and scale up their innovations.

The competition is funded through National Highways’ Designated Funds. This ring-fenced funding is dedicated to investing in and supporting initiatives that deliver lasting benefits for road users, the environment and communities across England.

“Alchera already works with major highways customers. It was a natural progression to seek a relationship with the biggest customer in our home market, National Highways. The competition provided us with that opportunity. The trial enables us to proof our technology in day-to-day operations, demonstrate the value to National Highways, seeking to establish a business-as-usual relationship at conclusion.”
Anna Jordan, Alchera Technologies Co-Founder and CEO
“We are excited to team up with National Highways and Balfour Beatty utilising CCTV cameras at roadworks to improve road user experiences. This project has the potential to unlock rich information to drive informed decisions, benefiting drivers, workers and the wider community as a whole.”
Hao Zheng, RoboK Co-Founder and CEO
“Wordnerds is focused on helping large organisations understand and act on their customer feedback, and it’s been so energising to see National Highway’s vision of keeping the customer at the centre of everything they do. Having worked closely with National Highways and Costain in the feasibility phase, we are very excited to be undertaking a live trial with both organisations, plus Kier, in 2024. Together we will demonstrate how AI can improve the way the sector deals with feedback, and ultimately impact the way we all experience roadworks.”
Ruth Erdal, Wordnerds Innovation Manager