Shaping the world’s first Industrial Safetytech Regulatory Sandbox18/05/2023
Safetytech Accelerator and Discovering Safety, a project delivered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), are working with partners in industry and technology to deliver the world’s first Industrial Safetytech Regulatory Sandbox (ISRS).
The programme is designed to accelerate technology into industrial safetytech applications, remove regulatory barriers to the adoption of leading-edge technology, and identify opportunities for the regulator to innovate and adapt to incoming technological changes.
Why now? Over the last decade, the intersection of digital technology and safety has begun to raise questions about the durability of not only our business models, but also our procedures, guidance, and even regulatory standards.
Are we truly prepared to take advantage of innovative technologies within industrial safety tech? And what if technology is unearthing complex safety and ethical concerns that need to be solved before it can be adopted at scale? To answer these questions requires a closer collaboration between tech – the people building innovations, industry – the people buying the tech and regulators.
The regulatory sandbox is a framework for these stakeholders to start working together more closely to address these challenges.
Regulator led or market led?
Part of our work has been to analyse existing efforts around regulatory sandboxes. The landscape is mixed; the definition of a sandbox stretches from years-long trials testing leading-edge technology in live environments, to short desktop analyses of the intersection between a product and the regulatory landscape.
A key question for regulators is how much they determine the strategic direction of the sandbox vs. letting the market elect its own priorities. Over the last few years, we have seen multiple regulators switch over from a more strategic cohort model, where regulator-driven challenges are tackled, to an ‘always open’ approach, where tech companies apply (and pay) for support and guidance when they need it.
In this second scenario, the sandbox is an elective service that tech companies can choose to take advantage of to better understand the regulatory landscape in their area and optimise their product(s) accordingly.
When considering the design of the ISRS, we wanted to be industry-led, and factor in the strategic priorities of the regulator (HSE). Getting this balance is crucial, as there might be areas that a regulator wants to accelerate tech into, because it knows it is a big challenge or an opportunity, or because there’s technology available that is struggling for scale and penetration.
A forward-looking regulator is also going to be looking at upcoming technologies and identifying gaps in guidance and prospective new risks that it wants to engage with early. Our challenge was to design a programme that caters for the different stakeholders involved.
Defining the challenge
Firstly, we started by gathering the most pressing health and safety challenges from across the construction and civils industries, and at the same time, building a network of potential industry mentors to play a role in the sandbox. The regulator determined the core objectives and goals for the programme, ranging from: understanding certain technologies better and directly unblocking regulatory obstacles, to identifying tech that can enable it to carry out its duties more effectively.
Secondly, by analysing feedback from previous sandboxes and engaging with industry, we designed a value proposition for tech companies to join the sandbox that incorporated the needs of customers and the regulator.
The core approach: Tech companies would apply to the programme demonstrating not only the value of their products, but the quality and impact of a research question/or area that they want to tackle with the HSE and industry mentors. The research questions would be formed into projects that are designed to not only unlock the potential of the tech company, but also shift strategic thinking and programmes forward in the regulator.
Once scouting was initiated, alongside responses to the health and safety challenges identified, tech applicants were asked to submit an outline research question and problem statement around their interaction with regulation, and how they can exploit the programme to further scale their product.
Shortlisted companies presented their approaches at a ‘Dragon’s Den – style’ event, that included mentors from the regulator and industry, who evaluated the feasibility and impact of both the solutions and research questions.
Once selected, tech companies were then supported in building their initial ideas into outcome-focused projects designed to deliver a variety of impacts both for themselves and the regulator.
Engagement from the market was exceptional, and we were delighted to select six companies to join our sandbox. The six will now form tripartite project teams with the regulator and industry mentors.
Here are the projects and the tech companies selected for each category:
- Analysing the impacts of flexible robotics systems on health and safety within industrial environments and how regulation can play a role in driving greater uptake – HAL Robotics
- Exploring the barriers to widespread adoption of AI (Artificial Intelligence) within the construction industry for use within health and safety – FYLD
- Exploring how advanced noise monitoring and technology for industrial environments should impact regulation and expected control measures – EAVE
- Investigating the potential of 3D virtual representation of a building to enable better H&S planning and risk communication, through visualizing and contextualizing the site conditions and hazards – Oculo AI
- Exploring how AI computer vision can mitigate the risk of interaction between people and heavy machinery within industrial environments – Machine Eye
- Exploring how cross-industry zonal working standards can enhance the application of technology within safety critical environments – PLINX
Over the next 3-months, look out for project updates and blogs from each company and project. If you’re interested in learning more about the programme, and meeting the team, please join us on the 14th of June in our event ‘Saving lives with technology – the world of industrial safetytech’.