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Live Labs 2 blog - Monitoring & Evaluation in the Live Labs 2 programme

In this month’s blog, Jamie King, member of the Live Labs 2 programme management team and Associate Transport Planner at WSP, discusses the importance of monitoring and evaluation.

Live Labs 2 has a unique remit - to fund innovative ideas to decarbonise the construction, maintenance and operation of the UK’s local road network. The hard infrastructure that modern societies rely on continues to present a perennial problem when it comes to finding ways of making it environmentally and structurally sustainable, so it’s exciting to be a part of a project that has the sanction to try new things.

Of course, the nature of innovating means that not everything will work first time, but failure is acceptable providing we have a clear plan to avoid repeating mistakes. This means that we have robust communications methods to ensure we disseminate lessons learnt and put processes in place to continually optimise the outcome of our projects.

The pivotal role of Monitoring and Evaluation in Live Labs 2

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is pivotal to this. Live Labs 2 has an extensive programme of M&E designed to be an integral part of governance, decision making and ensuring accountability and transparency. We have designed the programme to focus on several aspects, following guidance within HM Treasury’s Magenta Book and ensuring we deliver continuous learning and improvement:

  • Impact Evaluation – which focuses on whether the funding is delivering the change that was promised within the business case of each Live Lab. Live Labs 2’s primary objective is to assess whether each project is reducing the carbon footprint of constructing, maintaining and operating highways infrastructure in comparison to the counterfactual (the baseline carbon footprint). Uniquely, we are including indirect greenhouse gas emissions (scope 2 & 3) in our assessment, meaning that the impact of the supply chain of materials and plant is also considered. This raises the interesting prospect of having a positive influence on the environmental impact of other industries that rely on the same supply chain as the highways sector.
  • Value for Money Evaluation (vfm) – making an assessment as to whether the magnitude of the beneficial change outweighs the resources (financial or otherwise) that have been committed in making and maintaining that change. Additionally, if the innovation isn’t currently value for money, there is a prudent question as to whether vfm would be realised in scaling up the innovation to reduce the marginal operating costs. Again, considering the influence that these projects have on the greenhouse gas emissions of the supply chain, the task of quantifying the wider impact of this innovation programme is a significant challenge and we expect this task to be a continuous learning experience. However, it demonstrates the enormous potential of the return on investment of this funding and the transformative benefits that will be realised if we are successful.
  • Process Evaluation – as well as making an introspective assessment about the success of the programme and project management, the outcomes of Live Labs 2 will only be optimised if the learning is communicated effectively and the successes are replicated in other areas of the UK and abroad. This is critical to leave a positive legacy in decarbonising not only the highways sector, but other industries higher up the value chain.

The fact that our M&E work will continue to run for five years after the three year project delivery period has expired, illustrates its importance. It will allow us to continue monitoring the longer-term influence of the projects and, if necessary, seek ways to optimise the legacy of the work. Wider communications around the efficacy of the innovations will therefore be key to ensuring as much value from the project is realised.

Our M&E isn’t only valuable in providing evidence on the level of success of the project, it’s integral to the project being a success in the wider legacy and optimising the magnitude of positive change that can be achieved.

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