Ireland’s innovation agency is helping to improve road usability, quality, access and most importantly safety writes Laura Brocklebank, Enterprise Ireland’s Manchester based UK Local Authorities Lead
Roads are our primary infrastructure. Without them, we’re not going anywhere, literally.
Keeping them open is vital to our economic health. As access routes for emergency services and conduits to work for essential workers, they are important to our physical health. They are a critical link in the supply chain too.
But maintaining the road network is an ongoing and expensive activity. For local authorities and road authorities keeping them in good repair – in all-weather – means identifying problems early and undertaking remedial work as quickly and efficiently as possible.
As road authorities everywhere know, that is easier said than done. Ensuring a smooth ride for passengers and road freight is hugely challenging. In England alone, some 184,000 miles of roads are maintained by local authorities and across the UK it is estimated that a council fixes a pothole every 17 seconds.
Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s innovation agency, has a portfolio of client companies that can help with these challenges. They provide innovative technologies to make the road network more durable, reliable and, most important of all, safer.
It is vital work, which is why, even at the height of pandemic restrictions, the companies that help keep our roads safe and accessible are recognised as essential workers. The work they do helps other key workers get to work too, including emergency services.
But roadways contribute to the health of communities too, providing access and connectivity for both individuals and businesses, of the kind that help regions to thrive.
Indeed, the government’s commitment to ‘levelling up’ depends on the kind of increased connectivity between key regions that good road networks provide.
After all, even in today’s hyper-connected, internet of things based 5G world, roads remain the primary building block of connectivity. Just ask the local courier, on whose ability to get from A to B so much of global eCommerce depends.
Ireland has a fleet of companies which specialise in making roads safer and more reliable. Many of them work with local authorities across the UK.
These include Archway Roadmaster which, as you’ll see from the adjacent case study, delivers high-quality spray injected patching vehicles. They are a single person operation and have come into their own in the pandemic, as social distancing is simply not a problem. The Roadmaster brings innovation and high quality to highways departments, which is why the company currently works with more than 60 UK local authorities and won a Causeway Award for Irish Exporter to Scotland award 2020.
Multihog’s vehicles offer a wide range of functions. The machine, which is distributed in the UK by Multevo, offers a range of different applications including snow clearance, grass mowing, road repair, brush cutting and weed control.
It’s already working with a third of all UK local authorities including Derby City Council, where it provides road repair services and is used to de-ice cycleways in winter. It even has a water pump that can help reduce the driver risks associated with flooding in times of severe wet weather.
Technology company RetroTek’s measurement systems allow road authorities and road maintenance contractors to survey the road network to ensure reflective markings are operating to required standards by both day and night.
It is of huge benefit to road authorities everywhere as it both supports road user safety and reduces the risk of legal liability issues. Lack of proper visibility impacts on a local authority’s ability to collect fine revenue.
RetroTek provides greater efficiencies too, being vehicle front-mounted rather than truck mounted. Its smart reporting software enables councils to survey more roadway, faster. This is because it can cover a stretch that would previously have taken two passes, in just one pass, cutting drive time by half and reducing a local authority’s carbon footprint.
IDASO makes traffic monitoring, surveying and data collection easier, again saving time and money, while producing greater insight. It helps local authorities to make better informed decisions in relation to strategic planning, traffic impact assessments and property management, by making it easier to assess the impact on traffic of new developments. Through leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud-based software solutions, IDASO supply timely, accurate and understandable baseline data and has been working with Lancashire County Council.
This is just a snapshot of the Irish innovators helping to smooth the road ahead for councils all over the UK. To find out more, contact Laura Brocklebank, UK Local Authorities Lead, Enterprise Ireland UK firstname.lastname@example.org