How it works

Innovation at Highways England

For Highways England, innovation is the application of a new process or product that benefits our customers and stakeholders. To maximise those benefits we will work to ensure we have the right processes and culture to support innovation.

The innovation journey

We have two funding streams for our innovation programmes of work:

Innovation designated funds

To allow for actions beyond business as usual, as part of our wider portfolio of Designated Funds, the Road Investment Strategy sets out designated funding to support innovation. The total funding available is set at £150 million, with a £30 million allocation for 2020 to 2021.
We will use designated funding to “actively encourage more innovation and use of technology to support improving average delay, safety on roads and environmental considerations.”
There are different innovation themes including safety, data and information, improving our infrastructure, new and emerging technology and support to sustainable operations.

The Innovation programme

Our Innovation Programme budget is around £30 million/year, from which a significant portion is targeted at core business, with approximately £10 million focused on research and innovation. It is a key mechanism by which Highways England develops and implements new products, services & processes to improve the way we operate maintain and improve the strategic road network in England. The programme consists of portfolio themes to deliver our projects.


We also work in partnership with industry, academia and other infrastructure operators, who are aligned with our key themes and challenges.

Our model for delivering innovation

The innovation steps

1.    Idea and priority generation

Our drivers and calls for innovation are informed by three primary sources; firstly our key imperatives and long term vision for the Strategic Road Network, secondly, our internal business needs and expertise, and thirdly, emerging external developments to which we must react.

These form our innovation needs which are represented by our innovation and research themes, challenges and competitions.

2.    Engagement and submissions

Idea owners, innovators and suppliers are encouraged to engage with our opportunities via our Innovation Portal.

We will post focused challenges and problems on the Portal, and welcome the open submission of ideas which are aligned to our guiding imperatives and vision for the Strategic Road Network. We will also host competition calls and information on wider research activities.

3.    Idea selection and alignment

Our assessment and selection process for supporting new innovations will be based on a number of factors. These will include our Research and Innovation panel which will set our high level priorities, our Innovation Group and nominated project sponsors, and subject experts who would support a project.

4.    Idea funding

The implementation and support of new ideas and innovations can be via several different routes. Capital funding for development, trials and deployment can be sought via our designated funds for actions beyond our business as usual.  Funding is also available to develop new products, services & processes. We also are seeking to create partnerships across our innovation network to encourage new developments and opportunities which align to our key themes and challenges.

5.    Active projects and idea diffusion

Supported projects will be managed by an allocated project sponsor within our business. Our goal is to embed successful innovations into our business as usual work and the wider sector. This may involve further trials, the creation or update of standards or wider dissemination and promotion into industry.