Our innovator community are always working hard to improve the world we live in. Their processes deserve attention, and that’s why we’ve developed the Innovator Spotlight: a series of interviews with members of our community to showcase their work.
For October 2022’s instalment, we’ve spoken with Simon Topp from one.network about their company’s work improving safety and awareness around road works and beyond.
EIC: Hello Simon. Could you give me a run-down of what it is one.network does?
ST: We are an innovative software company, we provide a ‘software-as-a-service’ solution, that is specifically designed around temporary disruptions to roads.
Obviously, street works are a big part of that. We provide software to enable highway authorities and utilities to better plan and coordinate road works and street works. We also help them inform members of the public of what disruptions might take place, but also what it means to them, and why the work is important. Ultimately, a lot of the work is around aiding our customers to become operationally more efficient as well.
What are some of the major cultural concerns that one.network is focused on at the moment?
There has always been a challenge in this industry that you have road agencies who have a statutory duty to provide roads, flowing roads, congestion free roads… But people also have a duty to maintain assets and therefore need to dig up roads which causes congestion and challenges. There has always been this challenge between these organisations.
We sit somewhere in the centre of trying to navigate this. Everything that we do speaks to trying to control and manage these things.
At the heart of everything we do, safety sits in there as well.
What’s next for one.network? Do you have any goals you’d like to achieve in the next year?
We are ambitious. We’ve been doing what we do for ten years now.
We’ve seen considerable growth and progression in the utilities space over the last few years, but we believe there is a lot more we can do in that space.
We would like to sit at the heart of the utilities industry, helping them around the challenges they have with booking road space, getting the work done they need to on the road…
Separately, we launched this business into the U.S. a year and a half ago now, we are starting to see some traction and progress over there, again, pretty much at a road agency level, rather than utilities. We would love to see that we can do a similar thing [as in the U.K.], engaging with the utility companies over there.
Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with the EIC and how that started?
We have very good real-world products and solutions, but the age-old problem for us is, how do you tell your story? How do you get that out there?
We’re innovative in what we do, but we work in an industry that is risk-averse, slow to change and adapt.
Finding organisations that are up for innovation, that have that interest and desire, that’s who we want to talk to. There are limited ways in which we can do this. We can post stuff on social media, but is that really getting us direct engagement with the industry at large? No.
That’s where we see the EIC fitting. You can help connect us in a far closer way with organisations and individuals in those organisations, to talk to them and share our story.
Your collaborative work with Skewb and Cadent was nominated several times at the Energy Innovation Showcase & Awards 2022. Can you tell us a little bit about that work?
We have a formal business partnership with Skewb. Skewb have a number of software solutions but ultimately, much of their success has been as a management change consultancy business in the utilities space. Their work dovetails very nicely with us.
Skewb know Cadent’s business really well. So that’s where the conversation began, us working with Skewb to understand what Cadent’s challenges were, and then jointly talking to Cadent to say, “hey, we think we can help you out here.”
How was it to be nominated for the awards that you were up for at the Energy Innovation Showcase and Awards 2022?
It’s great! At the end of the day, we all believed that they were good projects that delivered very tangible things. They were driven by innovation and technology that wasn’t that widely rolled out across this industry.
So, it’s great to be nominated as a bit of recognition that what we’re doing is beneficial to the industry and innovative in its nature.
What does the future look like for one.network?
We have a melting pot at the moment of congested roads, lots of vehicles on roads, ever-increasing multi-modal transport, which creates more challenges when you have utility organisations digging up these roads.
You’ve got a need to communicate with all these people [travelling on roads] in a more effective way and we sit right at the heart of that.
Even further forwards, you’ve got the advent of autonomous vehicles on the road. The future need is that those vehicles need to know what’s happening on the roads. They need authoritative data about roads.
Road agencies and utility organisations therefore need to become digital. They’ll need high-quality data, and authoritative data. We are a massive facilitator to help them get that right in the future.
This is still more of the same of what we do, but it’s about ensuring everyone is set up for what the next five-to-ten years looks like.