Developing digital roads and improving air quality – 2 phases

Key Features

Highways England is funding 2 parallel competitions for solutions and ideas for the design and use of UK roads. This Phase 1 competition has up to £2 million available for unproven feasibility projects (low TRL) and a further £6 million available for Phase 2 to progress to prototype development and evaluation.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Up to £2 million

Opens: 11th Feb 2019

Closes: 1st May 2019

! This scheme is now closed


Highways England is investing up to £20 million across 2 parallel competitions to develop innovative ideas and solutions. These must change the way UK roads are designed, managed and used and must not have already been demonstrated on the strategic road network in England.


Your project must be relevant to the UK public highway. It can focus on particular types of road (from all-purpose trunk roads to motorways) or types of road use (including public transport and freight). It can either be location-specific or generic.

This competition covers 6 themes:

  1. Design, construction and maintenance.
  2. Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).
  3. Customer mobility.
  4. Energy and environment.
  5. Operations.
  6. Air quality.

If your project spans more than one theme, you must select the one that reflects the majority of work in your application and clearly state the other themes within the scope.

Examples of anticipated benefits of the solution include:

  • improved air quality
  • improved road safety, network capacity or performance
  • more efficient use of vehicles, such as increased vehicle occupancy
  • improved journey quality
  • new travel opportunities to ensure accessibility for all
  • the enhancement of public spaces

Specific Themes

Design, construction and maintenance.

  • Automated designs
  • Asset data improvements
  • Asset management maturity
  • Automated construction, maintenance and inspections
  • Modular construction
  • Smart materials

Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

  • Supporting connected cars
  • Preparing for the operation of a mixed fleet
  • Aiming to maximise the capacity and safety of CAVs

Customer mobility.

  • Customer experience
  • Connecting hubs

Energy and environment.

  • Reducing our impact on neighbours and the environment
  • Sustainable operations


  • Customer service
  • Traffic management
  • Roadworks
  • Incident and severe weather response

Air quality.

Focusing on innovations which:

  • are targeted at oxides of nitrogen pollution as a priority
  • are methods targeted at other air pollutants (lower priority)
  • enable lower pollution concentrations experienced by neighbouring communities
  • are deliverable by Highways England, either acting alone or in partnership with organisations such as local authorities, freight haulage companies, fleet operators or other government agencies


To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, the research base or the third sector as subcontractors

For your project to be eligible for funding, it must:

  • not yet be proven (low technology readiness level)
  • require evidence to determine feasibility
  • be suitable for trial on the strategic road network in England

Funding Costs

A total of up to £2 million, including VAT, for phase 1 and £6 million, including VAT, for phase 2 is available to fund projects in this competition.

In phase 1, funding will be awarded to support the gathering of feasibility evidence of a concept. Phase 2 funding will be to further develop this now proven concept to prototype stage.

The most promising ideas from phase 1 will be taken through a separate closed application process followed by development and prototyping (phase 2) which can last up to 9 months.

Your phase 1 feasibility study can last up to 2 months. Phase 1 is expected to start by September 2019 and must end by November 2019. Phase 2 is expected to start in December 2019 and must be complete by August 2020.

Applications must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively for research and development (R&D) services. R&D can cover solution exploration and design. It can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes


Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • have already proven feasibility, though you can apply for funding for these projects in the parallel competition
  • do not directly apply to the UK public highway used by motorised vehicles
  • focus on non-road transport modes, such as rail
  • focus on forecasting demand for road use, or the current planning processes for delivering road schemes
  • primarily focus on vehicles
  • cover items already trialled on the strategic road network in England
  • will not lead to capital investment
  • focus on measures designed to improve air quality for vehicle occupants
  • provide solutions in the area of socio-economic research, communications research, market research or literature review
  • proposals that just seek to refine and or improve the way we advance our UK CITE project, A2 or M2 corridor and Intercor projects
  • are focused on stopped vehicle detection