If you threw the contents of a packet of seeds into a dark, untended corner of your garden you wouldn’t expect many plants to come up and flourish. Plants need space, water, light and fertile soil to grow to their full potential.

What’s that got to do with innovation and highways frameworks? Quite simply, innovation will not flourish and deliver benefits unless you actively cultivate it and provide the right conditions.

When innovation isn’t cultivated customers experience repeated mistakes, lack of process improvement and poor sharing of best practice. The framework needs to create a healthy environment; one that will feed, water and cultivate experimentation, exploration and collaboration.

Time and space to dream

Innovation does not occur by chance, it has to be led and targeted. People need permission to innovate. People are the source of ideas, and investment is needed to give them space to explore new ideas – the time to dream.

Recently Osborne introduced a concept of 10% time. We encourage and give permission for our people to spend 10% of their time to dream, to create ideas and to think what we can do differently.

Behind this is a structure to progressively introduce and capture the Dreamtime outcomes, through Improvement opportunities that are collated into customer R&D and innovation priorities based on asset needs and incorporated into risk registers.

Leadership – The Head Gardener

Leadership creates the conditions innovation needs. Leadership says it’s not only ok but expected that people will take the time to be creative and challenge traditional approaches. A dedicated Innovation and Value Lead can be the Head Gardener who encourages, supports and connects complimentary innovative activities.

R&D must be directed to look at different ways of working with the goal of maintaining and improving a world class strategic and local highway network, ensuring there is sufficient focus on the whole life asset approach.


Some of the best innovation comes from sharing diverse viewpoints, with specialists working in mutually challenging and open cultures. Key stakeholders, shareholders and funders have a role to play. Sharing across our principal customers, universities and academia, local communities, local authorities and other highway and non-highway operators all shine light onto the project that will help innovation flourish.


An effective process will encourage and not stifle innovation. It ensures feedback loops are in place to keep people motivated by seeing their creativity acknowledged and progressed.

Idea creation, idea direction, idea evaluation and idea germination are all vital steps that must be managed and tracked. Get this right and you have the basis of a learning organisation or, in the case of a framework, a learning community culture.

Innovation funding should pump prime win-win opportunities both for the end highways user, funders and the organisations involved.

Digital data and metrics

We have unprecedented opportunities to capture data and use it and we believe in putting BIM at the heart of innovation and process information. This is not the use of a fancy 3D model (as most understand and portray BIM to be) but much more importantly the use of software to share learning and create useful data on which continuous improvements introduced can be measured.

Whole life innovation is essential, as is effective measurement. This means digital data collection, monitoring investment spending, tracking targets, measuring quantitative and qualitative submitted Improvement Opportunities, measuring R&D and “Dream Time “ investment against the impact of the interventions made and the value created through them.

Innovation – Living and Breathing

Innovation will not happen unless you create space for it to do so. We passionately believe in creating a working community that innovates, learns and develops together. Creating space and time for our people to dream, to come away from the day job, to look at brighter ways to deliver will make us all successful, and create a legacy to be proud of.

Innovation is not something you can simply bolt onto the day job and expect it to deliver something meaningful and impactful.