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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Four firms reach final stage of National Highways low carbon programme


Fully circular, low carbon fencing materials and smart fibre reinforced plastic bridge beams are among projects by companies participating in a programme seeking low carbon solutions on National Highways’ network.


Four firms have made it through to the final stage of the Accelerating Low Carbon Innovation programme organised by National Highways in collaboration with Connected Places Catapult and each are set to receive up to £80,000 to make their vision a reality.


Seven firms were initially awarded up to £30,000 to produce plans for their ideas and of these, the four will now get to trial their ideas. The aim is to find innovative solutions for net zero carbon maintenance and construction in an exciting programme worth £1.7m overall.


The successful firms are:


Low Carbon Materials Limited (LCM), Seaham – delivering a carbon negative aggregate for use in carbon neutral asphalt.


PRG (Scotland) Limited, Hamilton – to produce a bitumen-like substance which would be useful for road construction and repairs.


Circular11 Ltd, Christchurch, Dorset - to provide highly durable, maintenance-free fencing material that turns mixed low-grade plastic into low-carbon infrastructure, and which will be collected and recycled at end-of-life.


Asset International Structures (pictured), Cwmbran  - to develop smart fibre reinforced plastic bridge beams that incorporate a novel optical fibre, enabling structural performance monitoring in real time and over long term.

Dr Joanna White, National Highways Roads Development Director, said:  

“We want to speed up innovation within our sector and adopt new solutions. The innovation accelerator will help take potential solutions and drive them through the research and testing phases.” 


Melissa Giusti, National Highways Project Manager, added: 

“In 2021 we set out our Net Zero plan which includes a commitment to net zero emissions from construction and maintenance activity by 2040.  


“Material decarbonisation, building less, efficiently using materials, getting things right first time, making their assets last longer and driving change through whole life carbon decision-making are areas that we're going to focus on. 


“To address this, we're offering funding to innovators for the development of novel solutions that could help them reach their environmental goals. Many congratulations to all the companies who have made it to this stage and we look forward to seeing them develop their ideas.” 


Alex Weedon, Executive Director - SME Development and Academic Engagement, Connected Places Catapult, said: "Building relationships between innovative SMEs, large infrastructure clients and contractors supports bold ideas. By helping everyone to collaborate around the crucial topic of net zero we’re able to support the testing and scaling of viable solutions, helping them get to market where they can make a real difference.

"The companies entering the trial phase of this accelerator will be assisted throughout by experts from the Catapult and partners. Each have been paired with a tier one contractor to help deploy their innovation on the ground."


As part of phase two, funding up to £80,000 is being provided to support the selected organisations to trial their solutions. Funds have been allocated based on the trial proposals submitted by applicants. All funding has been subject to approval from National Highways. 


Here are more details about the projects:

Asset International Structures - For the proposed trial, Asset International Structures is going to develop the Bridge of the Future draft concept for use on a Balfour Beatty test site. They are developing smart fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) bridge beams.


These innovative non-corroding, high-performance lightweight composite beams enable modern methods of construction, improving safety and reducing cost for transport infrastructure projects.​ The beams will incorporate a novel optical fibre, enabling structural performance monitoring in real-time. Over the long term, it could help reducing carbon emissions through manufacture, transport, construction and long-term maintenance.

Circular11 - The trial of Circular11, with the support of Kier, will validate the use of recycled plastic composite made from low-grade plastic waste material in boundary and acoustic insulation fencing. After carrying out the necessary in-house testing, Circular11 will first validate their products on Kier’s testing site before deploying on a live trial. If the trial is successful, in the long term, Circular11 could mitigate 20,866 tonnes of CO2e per year by preventing the incineration of 9695 tonnes of plastic material, in addition to 11,644 tonnes CO2e/year in avoided embodied carbon.

Low Carbon Materials - The proposed trial plan, supported by Skanska, is for Low Carbon Materials (LCM) to incorporate their carbon-negative aggregate into asphalt with the ambition to create net-zero asphalt. This will initially involve LCM laying a test strip of Asphalt Concrete binder course containing LCM's aggregate alongside a control test strip containing 100% conventional aggregate. The culmination of the trial will see this innovation deployed on a section of the Strategic Road Network as part of the Skanska-delivered £507 million improvement project on the A428 in Cambridgeshire. The carbon-negative aggregate designed by Low Carbon Materials could make a significant impact on National Highways carbon emissions with minimal change to standard procedures.

PRG Scotland - This collaborative trial between PRG Scotland and Robert Gordon University is supported by Jean Lefebvre UK (part of the Vinci Group) and Amey. The trial is proposing to use a continuous reductive distillation (CRD) process for converting waste tyres into low carbon Tyre-Derived Bitumen.

Before this substance can be used it needs to be tested for its ability to match bitumen in key performance indicators such as durability, adhesion, stability, environmental impact, quantities and odour. The use of waste tyre-derived bitumen is expected to reduce carbon emissions in road construction and reduce the complex supply chain process associated with bitumen importation.

This competition is funded through National Highways’ Designated Funds, ring-fenced funding that we use to invest in and support initiatives that deliver lasting benefits for road users, the environment and communities across England. 

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