UKRLG research

The UK Roads Liaison Group (UKRLG) is only one research commissioning body among many and as part of its wider remit to provide practitioners across the UK with comment, guidance, and advice on strategic policy and highways management issues, the UKRLG wish to gain an overview of the current position of highways related research: who is funding it, who is conducting it, and the processes they adopt to formulate and manage research programmes.

Atkins was commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) in January 2009 (on behalf of the UKRLG) to undertake a brief review of highways research, both nationally and internationally, in order to provide this overview. TRL Limited were subsequently engaged by Atkins as sub-consultants to undertake specific elements of the task where their associations with other research bodies enabled existing relationships to be exploited.

The data collated during the study was varied and identified that a diverse range of research activities is undertaken within the general topic area of highways engineering research. The scope of the study was limited to a high level review of the research organisations rather than a detailed analysis of research undertaken by specific themes or subjects. Further study would be required for in-depth analysis of a specific topic such as, for example, asset management strategies or winter maintenance treatment protocols.

The study has revealed that highways engineering research is undertaken via a wide range of organisations with differing structures, objectives and activities. In order to better understand these differences it was considered valuable to classify the organisations into a number of groups based on common fundamental functions. Though there may be subtle differences between practices among organisations falling within the same group it was possible to define four groups as follows:

  • Contributor Stakeholder
  • Funding Manager Stakeholder
  • Funding Manager
  • Facilitators

The information obtained in the course of the study contributes to the UKRLG’s understanding of how organisations sharing similar areas of interest initiate and carry out research. A number of key elements of the research management processes identified can potentially contribute towards improved research outcomes for the UKRLG via the adoption of established best practices which include: 

  • reviews of existing/past research;
  • implementation of research strategies and programmes;
  • stakeholder consultation;
  • disemmination of research results; and
  • ability to achieve automony of research activities

To enable the UKRLG to maximise the value obtained from research funding and/or improve the applicability of its research programme for the key stakeholders, the following identified strategies could be utilised to deliver a positive impact:

  • exploit existing research management structures;
  • become better involved with technology transfer (especially with academia);
  • prepare quarterly newletters;
  • undertake an annual review of research activities; and
  • undertake ad-hoc reviews of specific research topics.

The full report is available here:  Highways Engineering Research: Review of processes, players, budgets and themes