Live Labs blog: project update - Staffordshire doing things differently

20th December 2019

Here in the Staffs Live Lab we are trying to do things a little differently! Over the last two months, we’ve been running the first phase of our Challenge Creation, based around our two focus areas - air quality and intelligent rural mobility. We're aiming to identify the critical issues faced by the county and then develop the tangible challenges that we can release to the SME market.  

Intelligent rural mobility 

Staffordshire, Amey and Keele have all been taking part in a collaborative workshop process, where we have identified and grouped the key macro issues facing Staffordshire’s shift towards a sustainable future:

  • Behaviour change and cultural shift away from cars and towards shared, active and sustainable travel modes.
  • Creating feasible business models around multi-modal travel, collaboration between providers and integration of transport planning.
  • Rural isolation and accessibility, variable topography and geography.
  • Suitability of existing transport solutions to deliver a sustainable future.

A radical hypothesis to combat macro issues at a local level

While Staffordshire faces several critical county-wide issues, the reality is that the mobility challenges we face vary dramatically based on topography, population and density, and all pose a threat to the viability of scaling potential solutions. Future transport must be dynamic, demand responsive and designed to tackle specific local concerns.  So, in true Live Labs fashion, we've set out a radical hypothesis - that an interconnected network of mobility hubs and smaller transport nodes could provide the backdrop to, and link-up with a multi-modal and sustainable mixed economy of transport options within the county.

We've selected a throretical hub test location just outside Keele University, which will form the pilot area for us to trial the SMEs who respond to our challenges, and distilled the macro issues into specific transport challenges that the hub concept will be looking to solve: 

Transport categories

  1. Built environment: delivering a clean air environment in a built up area through sustainable transport options within a three mile radius.
  2. Rural transport to hub: connecting rurally isolated individuals, commuters and those looking to travel beyond the hub, to the hub.
  3. Hub-to-hub rapid transit: once at a hub, users travel to other designated hubs in a rapid transit capacity, connecting key infrastructure elements within the county.

Integration

  1. Behaviour change: delivering cultural shift towards active, shared and sustainable travel.
  2. Commercialisation: developing financially viable models for delivering multi-modal and sustainable transport within counties in the UK.
  3. Planning and collaboration: integrating future sustainable transport strategy into city planning and private housing developments at the inception stage. 

Our next steps will be to complete our feasibility study on the potential for a hub network, as well as take our challenges to the SME market. 

Air Quality 

The second part of our Live Lab is focused on incubating and trialling a cohort of SMEs delivering cutting edge clean air solutions. Our first step was to identify three trial locations in existing Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) within Staffordshire. During this workshop, we identified locations that would maximise the variety of solution that could be deployed in the programme. 

A Dragon’s Den to deploy a pervasive sensor network 

To create the environment for us to test and evaluate incoming solutions within our AQMAs, we will be deploying a pervasive network of air quality monitoring sensors across each site. During November, we released each AQMA as a ‘monitoring challenge’ to the market. The responses we received varied from 15 sensors to 50! Three finalists were invited to attend a Dragon’s Den in December, where experts from Staffordshire and Amey grilled participants on their solutions. We had well-embedded industry suppliers alongside brand new SMEs, setting out radically different ideas. The same AQMA locations will be re-released as ‘solution challenges’ during Q1 2020. 

Both our mobility and air quality solution challenges will be released early in 2020. The successful SMEs will receive full incubation, alongside funded trialling and support for future innovation bidding opportunities.