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Innovation and technological solutions: an interview with Giles Perkins, Programme Director, ADEPT Live Labs

4 min


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Now entering Phase Three of their SMART PLACES RESEARCH PROGRAMME, ADEPT continues to focus on its two-year SMART Places Live Labs Programme which aims to develop smart approaches across multiple sectors. Quadrant Smart sits down with Giles Perkins, programme director of the Live Labs project to learn more.

Quadrant Smart spoke to Giles Perkins, head of future mobility for WSP and programme director for the ADEPT Live Labs. ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs Programme is a two year £22.9m project funded by the Department for Transport, in Phase Three of their SMART PLACES RESEARCH PROGRAMME, and will run until November 2021.

Giles Perkins, ADEPT Live Labs

One project for the Live Labs Programme, located in Fairford Leys, Aylesbury, are focused on creating a SMART Connected Community in Aylesbury Garden Town, Bucks. With £4.49m in funding, the project is exploring new materials and 3D printing for columns; energy generation and storage and integration with 5G programmes. In partnership with Keele University the Transport Systems Living Live Lab, located on the university’s campus, will focus on the development, testing and demonstration of Smart infrastructure and its interaction with new service propositions,  CAVs, people and alternative fuels.

Working with nine local authorities and their partners across eight innovative projects, the Live Labs will develop new smart approaches across communications, materials, energy solutions and mobility. The eight Live Labs will be led by local authorities with university and private sector partners.

Developing retrofit business cases

Speaking to Quadrant Smart, Giles explained the Live Labs are “not just about technological innovation”, and rather they aim to show how to make technological solutions across the different sectors.

The Live Labs “focus on collecting the data, collecting the insights and learning and understanding what comes from those different trials,” he said. Ultimately, the labs want to develop “retrofit business cases” and “demonstrate to the rest of the sector the business case for using these types of interventions,” according to Giles. The programme hopes with the information they collect and businesses cases they develop, the public and private sectors will be able to use this information and “scale up doing similar things on their networks.”

As with many industries, ADEPT has been impacted by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. November 2021 as the concluding date for the Live Labs was six months later than originally expected, Giles noted, as the project had experienced “major delays”.

Despite their setbacks, Giles told Quadrant Smart: “Lots of our labs have got their equipment out and are already collecting data and many things are out their being used today, so overall we are on track.”

Learning from the challenges of the pandemic, Giles stressed the importance in “planning how you can be resilient to disruption” and “how we make our network services resilient for an uncertain future” in ADEPT’s Live Labs.

To be resilient to disruption, the Live Lab teams are thinking around what the future may look like, how transport can keep people moving and “how do we keep the economy going,” using technology, says Giles.

With a focus on planning for an uncertain future, Giles hopes these interventions “hopefully doesn’t [don’t] need to be used but can be implemented if needed.”

Collaboration for success

One key feature to the Live Labs is its partners and the roles they play. Giles showed how he was keen to have “a blended set of partners” from the outset, hence why they are collaborating with local authority partners, private sector partners, and SME suppliers, as well as input from universities.

Universities such as Keele University and the University of Reading, as well as international universities, play a vital role in the projects and “are getting involved in different ways in terms of doing analysis research” according to Giles. The inputs, Giles explains, add “to the perspectives of our Live Labs overall.”

Reinforcing the importance of innovation Giles told Quadrant Smart: “Live Labs need as many different eyes as possible to get us to where the answers are.” The input from the universities, he explained, adds a layer of “academic rigour” and “detailed analysis” to its programme.

The Department for Transport has sat alongside us in meetings, so everybody has been together on the whole journey

“The Department for Transport has sat alongside us in meetings, so everybody has been together on the whole journey” says Giles.

Project organisers are now at a stage where they are able “to gain insights”, as all of their Live Lab projects are “collecting data to different degrees” across a multitude of sectors, Giles explained.

“Scalability is an opportunity and is something at the heart of what we are doing” says Giles. The Live Labs “are demonstrating this scalability whether it is the deployment of centres or whether is large scale trials, or even large scale application of data techniques.”

Giles told Quadrant Smart his vision for the Live Labs: “I hope what comes out of our programme is that we can demonstrate the scale which we have achieved and people can take that legacy and build on it for the future.”