Auckland Transport logo, XLabs participant

Developing a circular innovation hub for cross-industry collaboration

Auckland Transport (AT)  is exploring how they might open the channels for cross-industry collaboration to take on the systemic challenges that affect us all, starting with the impacts of transport construction and demolition.

Their XLabs team prototyped a circular innovation hub where great ideas for circular infrastructure are born through partnerships to generate positive, tangible outcomes.

CBD methods:
Embedded intelligence
Networked participation
Circular Business Model
Carbon emissions
Societal benefits
Wasted resources

The Team:
Juliana Rodriguez-Pinzon, Michelle Prattley,
Jade Ansted, Marcus Williams, Andy Richards,
Campbell Larsen, Annabel Burgees,
Vicki McRae, Stewart Thomson

The Challenge ­–

Auckland is a city under construction. As New Zealand’s population rapidly approaches five-million, and with a third of all Kiwi’s living in its biggest city, our infrastructure needs are not going to slow down, especially transport. However, there is a significant impact and challenges that comes with the construction of new infrastructure on people and the planet.

Construction and demolition represents fifty percent of Auckland’s waste. What we develop and build now will have a massive impact on what we need to do in the future. As we know, New Zealand is a hotbed for innovation. We need to enable an even greater shift in thinking, to give new ideas access to development and allow them to grow. By doing this, we’ll have a chance to create and develop plans for a resilient, circular future for the city of Auckland.

Auckland Transport recognises they play a major role in the way Aucklanders live and move about the city. Both in what they create and what they remove when it comes to infrastructure. As a council-controlled organisation, they have both a statutory and a moral imperative to provide transport infrastructure for Auckland communities, whilst protecting and enhancing the environment, our culture and building a regenerative, equitable economy. They recognise they can positively influence across the spectrum of transport infrastructure projects to improve the lives of Aucklanders, by reducing waste, emissions, generating shared prosperity and unlocking innovation and technology. 

The challenge AT brought to the lab was:
“How might circular economy principles apply to radically change the future of transport infrastructure in Auckland for the benefit of our communities, stakeholders and the environment?"

Auckland Transport team looking over brainstorm notes as to how to become more circular in transport infrastructure and construction at XLabs
Auckland Transport team presenting their circular vision to other XLabs participants

The Journey ­–

What attracted AT to XLabs was the opportunity to take the time to consider the impact of their Infrastructure Programme and understand just how AT could be smarter about how they deliver their projects.

“It was a great opportunity to connect and collaborate with others within the infrastructure industry as well as collaborating with other industries who work and use transport every day.” AT

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The Solution ­–

They looked for global inspiration in how other groups were solving problems, entities like Unilever’s - The Foundry which provided resources for Start-Ups; City of Paris which ran competitions to develop and reuse abandoned city sites; and locally in Waka Kotahi with their tactical urbanism projects.

Part of the problem is that there is no existing platform to develop new ideas. Projects are approved based on their risk assessment. Auckland Transport’s funds come from taxpayers so have a high level of accountability associated with them. We need to develop a lab that could act as a testing ground, a place supported through partnered co-funding that can demonstrate capability in order to help get ideas off the ground.

INNOVATE is their solution.

It’s an innovation hub within Auckland Transport that brings together pioneering start-ups, corporate partners, innovators, project managers, tech experts and funders under one roof. They would come together to solve key issues through new ideas. To be connected to projects that could give Auckland tangible outcomes to move forward and lead.

Screengrab of Innovate, Auckland Transport's circular economy innovation hub as presented at XLabs
Group of five Auckland transport employees standing in front of XLabs photo wall

The Ambition ­–

Their ambition is to inspire the collective Auckland Transport group to imagine a circular future. Their short-term goal is to develop a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) with which to run a pilot. With a long-term goal to build a lab that allows both internal and external stakeholders to contribute to ideas that are focused on the sustainable circular development of Auckland’s future that gets heard and considered.

“The ideas are out there, we just need to create the pathways for them to be validated so that we can implement them responsibly within our projects.” AT