Ann Carruthers is Director of Environment and Transport at Leicestershire County Council and is a member of the Live Labs 2 Commissioning Board. In this month’s blog, Ann talks about her involvement in Live Labs 2 and her ambitions for the programme…
As well as my role at Leicestershire County Council, I am the Chair of ADEPT’s Transport and Connectivity Board. This leads discussions across the transport agenda for the Association, including innovation, new technology, active travel, future mobility and accessibility.
It also considers the range of funding opportunities and challenges and their implications on the services that local authorities can provide. This puts me in a good position to bring not only a local authority perspective to the Live Labs 2 Commissioning Board, but also in the context of transport innovation.
The Commissioning Board is a very diverse set of individuals who bring different skills and experiences to the conversations and debates. For me, it’s providing the local authority view – it’s great to have these innovative projects but we also need to look at the practicalities. For example, the timescale for putting the business cases together is quite tight but local authorities have their own processes that they have to follow, such as taking it to elected members for sign off. There are things that we have to comply with, and I aim to help to get the right balance so that it works for everyone.
Live Labs 2 project visits
Now that Live Labs 2 is underway, there will be an opportunity for Commissioning Board members to visit some of the projects. I am really looking forward to this as it will help to bring Live Labs to life for me. Being able to engage with the project teams directly and see for myself what is working or where the challenges are, will make my role on the Commissioning Board more meaningful.
Local authorities have many challenges and in particular struggle with resources – and for many authorities we just don’t have the capacity to do our own research and development. For me, this is what the Live Labs programme is doing for us. Decarbonisation is a real challenge for all authorities and at Leicestershire, I’m particularly interested in how we can reduce further our emissions in things like street lighting.
Also, the Live Labs work on materials – each authority doesn’t have the ability to reinvent the wheel so this is where the value of Live Labs comes in. It’s about getting answers that all local authorities can benefit from. Live Labs 2 will provide a massive step forward for us.
Investment from DfT
We know how stretched financially local authorities are, so having the £30million investment from DfT is a huge vote of confidence for both ADEPT and the highways sector. Live Labs 2 is about raising the bar and taking us all there. The challenge is taking the learning and embedding it. We need local authorities to understand how the implications of Live Labs 2 can help them by making the good practice that comes out of it, business as usual.
We’ve all been there with our heads down in our day jobs and we don’t have time to fully understand other things that are happening that our own authority might benefit from. Therefore, a key component of Live Labs 2 is to make the learnings as streamlined and easy to digest as possible. Not only so that local authorities are aware of and understand what the programme is doing, but also to get us all thinking about it in terms of our own service areas and how they can benefit from the Live Lab learning.
The role of communications in Live Labs 2
Communications will be extremely important. Even though we’re in the very early stages, there’s already a lot going on to get people tuned into the programme and keep them interested. Having a good level of awareness of Live Labs 2 from the get-go means that once we start to share our learnings, they will be taken on board more easily and have a greater impact.
Forming strong partnerships
Another early achievement I feel Live Labs 2 has excelled at is the extent of the partnerships that have formed. Local authorities from different ends of the country, along with academic and private sector partners, have come together and made connections to talk about how they can collaborate on common issues. This is incredibly valuable and quite unusual. I am excited to see how these partnerships develop and the innovations they deliver over the next three years.
- For more information on ADEPT Live Labs 2: Decarbonising Local Roads in the UK, please look at the Live Labs 2 section on the website
Find out more about Ann Carruthers here