Designated funds

Designated Funds


At National Highways, our work goes beyond operating, maintaining and improving roads

As custodian of the country’s motorways and major A-roads, we know that the work we do makes a positive difference – for people, the economy and the planet.

From 2020 to 2025, we’ll be investing £936 million from our standalone – or designated – funding. This money is allocated to four funding streams focused on making improvements that will make the biggest difference and deliver lasting benefits.

Here are our four Designated Fund plans:


Safety and congestion


We play a vital role in peoples’ lives. 95 billion journeys take place on our roads every year, carrying a third of the country’s traffic.

With more people using our network than any other form of transport, our priority remains improving the safety of those travelling and working on our roads.

We also recognise that congestion is a concern for everyone who uses our roads – adding stress and preventing people from getting to their destination on time. This fund has two themes:


Contributing to improved safety for the people who travel and work on our roads, helping us to achieve a ‘zero harm’ network – where no one is killed or injured on our roads.


We’re investing this fund in initiatives which tackle locations of high congestion on our roads and keep traffic flowing.

Our corporate targets

The themes in this fund support our corporate targets to reduce:

  • the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads by at least 50% (against the 2005-2009 average baseline) by the end of 2025

  • delays for people travelling on our network so that average delay per mile driven is no worse by the end of the second Road Period (2020-2025) compared to the end of the first Road Period (2015-2020)

Our work so far

Our Safety and congestion fund is new and runs from April 2020 until March 2025. Between 2015 and 2020, we used other designated funds to achieve similar aims, including:

Some of our stories

Humber compliance vehicle
Humber compliance vehicle;
Preventing self-harm
Preventing self-harm;
Roger Millward Way
Roger Millward Way;


Environment and wellbeing


This fund is helping us operate our business in an environmentally responsible way, while making sure sustainability shapes our work from start to finish.

It has nine themes which support our vision of a greener, more sustainable road network.


Maximising biodiversity contributions from our activities to help wildlife thrive, including creating new or enhancing existing habitats.


Minimising noise to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of the people living near our roads

Air quality

Reducing concentrations of harmful pollutants in the air to protect the health of our neighbours and road users


Reducing flooding on our roads and minimising flood risks to the communities who live alongside them.

Water quality

Stopping harmful discharges running off our roads in to ground and surface water, while restoring damaged and modified waterbodies.


Supporting government’s ambition - net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Cutting direct emissions. Driving supply chain energy and resource efficiency. Helping road users lower their carbon footprint.

Cultural heritage

Preserving sites of special historic or cultural interest near our roads, so they can be enjoyed by future generations.


Protecting and enhancing the character of the landscape surrounding our network. Helping our roads blend in with their natural setting.

Environmental legacy

Delivering better environmental, health and wellbeing outcomes. Adding value long after our work is finished.

Our corporate targets

The themes in this fund support our corporate targets to:

  • mitigate road noise for 7,500 households in ‘noise important areas’

  • ensure no net loss of biodiversity across all our activities by 2025

  • bring agreed sections of the Strategic Road Network into compliance with legal NO2 limit values as soon as possible

  • reduce carbon emissions resulting from our electricity consumption, fuel use and other day-to-day operational activities during the second Road Period (2020-2025)

Our work so far

Working with our partners, we’re achieving greater environmental outcomes together. Our progress so far includes:

Some of our stories

Hull Minster
Hull Minster;
Electric vehicle trials
Electric vehicle trials;
A38 Stover Park wetland
A38 Stover Park wetland;


Users and communities


Society relies on our road network for work journeys and home deliveries, visits to friends and family, holidays and the goods and services we all depend on.

As technology and travel evolves, this fund is helping us look beyond road journeys to do more for our customers and neighbours. It has six themes aimed at meeting their needs:


Improving how our roads integrate with other local and national roads and modes of travel. Connecting the country through seamless journeys.

Walkers, cyclists and horse riders

Building new infrastructure and enhancing existing facilities to encourage sustainable, non-motorised forms of transport

Roadside facilities

Enhancing roadside facilities for anyone who needs to stop and take a break.


Supporting the communities most affected by changes to our network. Understanding their priorities and requirements.


Making improvements for the UK’s vital freight and road haulage sector, which contributes £11 billion each year to the economy.


Helping road users to feel safe, make informed decisions and stay in control of their journeys.

Our corporate targets

The themes in this fund support our corporate targets to:

  • achieve an 82% road user satisfaction score for the first two years of the second Road Period (2020-2025) with year on year increases in the following years

  • reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads by at least 50% (against the 2005-2009 average baseline) by the end of 2025

Our work so far

Our Users and communities fund is new, and runs from April 2020 until March 2025. Between 2015 and 2020, we used other designated funds to achieve similar aims, including:

Some of our stories

Managing travel demand
Managing travel demand;
Keswick trail
Keswick trail;
Hidden history
Hidden history;


Innovation and modernisation

Technology is rapidly influencing the transport sector. We know we need to keep innovating to improve experiences on the road, while getting people where they need to be, safely and reliably.

Through this fund, we’re constantly exploring new ways to improve safety and journeys, connect the country and drive the economy.

We’re digitising our design processes, transforming how we’ll deliver the next generation of roads and finding better ways to protect our workforce and road users. We’ve invested over £120 million in 159 innovation initiatives between 2015 and 2020

Visit our Innovation pages to find out more about our research activities and how we’re collaborating with others to bring ideas to life.

The Innovation and Modernisation fund has five themes which are revolutionising travel and work on our roads:

Design, construction and maintenance

Finding more innovative and effective ways to design, build and maintain our roads

Connected and autonomous vehicles

Promoting semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles. Prioritising user safety when developing new technologies.

Customer mobility

Providing seamless and sustainable journeys through reliable, information-rich highways

Energy and environment

Saving energy. Reducing environmental impact. Delivering value for money through sustainable road enhancements and renewals.


Unlocking capacity on our roads and making them safer and better for the people who use and work on them.

Some of our stories

Innovation competitions
Innovation competitions;
Transforming road markings
Transforming road markings;
Eyes in the sky
Eyes in the sky;


Delivering in partnership

Strong relationships and partnerships are important to us. We work with experts in their fields, from innovators and nature conservationists to safety and customer service specialists.

By helping us make better investments, providing co-funding or delivering on our behalf, our partners allow us to do more, together.

What we've achieved with Designated Funds so far

Between 2015 and 2020, we invested more than £653 million in over 2,000 initiatives that willimprove our network and its surroundings.

Working with us

Many of our designated funds initiatives collaborations with other organisations.

If you're already working with us and you have a new project proposal, discuss it with your current National Highways project contact.

If you:

  • have a project or initiative that might be eligible for funding
  • aren't already working with us

Complete our expression of interest form.

We'll consider your project if:

If you have questions, or would like to discuss an idea before completing the Expression of interest form, please email our designated funds team.

Frequently asked questions

What are designated funds?

Our designated funds are separate to our core work of operating, maintaining and improving England’s strategic road network. They provide ring-fenced funding that we use to invest in and support initiatives that deliver lasting benefits for road users, the environment and communities across England.

Through four designated funding streams, we focus on making improvements that make the biggest difference. Unlike some of our other areas of work, like our Enhancements programme, these improvements are not specified in advance of our five-year road investment periods. Instead, we work flexibly with our customers and stakeholders to invest the funds where they are needed most over the course of the road period.

From 2020 to 2025 – our second road period - we’ll be investing £936 million in designated funds. Our four funding streams for this period are:

  • Safety and congestion
  • Environment and wellbeing
  • Users and communities
  • Innovation and modernisation

The Department for Transport provides the investment for designated funds as part of government’s Road Investment Strategy 2: 2020 to 2025 (RIS2).

RIS2 commits the government to spend a total of £27.4 billion during the second Road Period, which runs from 2020 to 2025. Some of this will be used to build new road capacity, but much more will be focused on improving the current strategic road network and its surroundings, so that every part of the country will benefit. Our designated funds - ring-fenced funding streams totalling £936m – come from this investment and play a vital role.

Our designated funds support a range of initiatives that help us to achieve our strategic ambitions and find new ways to improve our road network and its surroundings. The money we invest differs from project to project, from the thousands into the millions. For example, we typically invest our Safety and congestion fund in initiatives that cost between £100,000 and £3 million.

When we receive applications, we look at what a project costs, how it can demonstrate and deliver value for money, and what additional funding partners and stakeholders will provide to help meet the commitments of the initiative.

We welcome applications for funding from National Highways teams and external organisations from the public, third and private sectors. All applications will be subject to the same principles for funding.

You can find out more about the sorts of initiatives we’re looking to fund between 2020 and 2025 in our Designated funds plan 2020-2025.

We may also hold competitions for funding from specific designated funds during this period. These are open to any organisation, and provide opportunities for funding for those not already working with us, particularly small and medium sized enterprises. Find out more about previous competitions on our Innovation Hub.

Our Designated funds plan 2020-2025 sets out the details of all four funds including their purpose, how they align with our performance indicators and strategic priorities, and the specific criteria for funding.

Our list of resources will help you prepare an application that fits with our strategic priorities and the criteria for funding.

Our Designated funds plan 2020-2025 covers key information about the programme, including the purpose of each fund, how they align with our performance indicators and strategic priorities, and the selection criteria for funding applications. It also explains how to start the application process, and make sure that your application supports the aims and themes of the fund that you are applying for.

If you’re a National Highways colleague, or are already working with us, contact your local designated funds lead for more information about how to apply for funding from our designated funds.

If you’re not already working with us, but have a project or initiative that might be eligible for funding, please tell us more about it by completing an Expression of interest form.

If you have further questions about our designated funds, or would like to discuss an idea before completing an Expression of interest form, please email our designated funds team. We’ll connect you with the best person in our organisation to answer any questions you might have and guide you through the application and appraisal process in more detail.

Between 2015 and 2020, we invested more than £650 million in over 2,000 initiatives through our designated funds, finding new ways to improve our road network and its surroundings. Projects included building cycleways and safer road crossings that better integrate our network with other modes of transport, and vital research into methods for improving air quality around our roads.

We also supported projects that reduced noise for people living near our network, and worked with partners to drive forward innovation designed to protect and improve the environment. We’ve helped to improve the safety, health and wellbeing of people traveling and working on our network and the communities surrounding it.

The case studies on this page tell some of the stories from projects funded through our designated funds so far.

The success of our designated funds, and the initiatives we support through them, is based on the contribution they make to delivering our vision for a safer, smoother and more sustainable strategic road network.

We have agreed six performance outcomes with the Department for Transport covering the second road period:

  • Improving safety for all
  • Providing fast and reliable journeys
  • A well-maintained and resilient network
  • Delivering better environmental outcomes
  • Meeting the needs of all users
  • Achieving efficient delivery

When it comes to our designated funds, we expect projects to help us address and deliver these outcomes, and the targets, ambitions and priorities set out in our fund plan.

These are diverse, ranging from improving the condition of drainage systems on our roads, to reducing noise surrounding our network and helping us understand the needs of logistics and coach drivers.

For more details on the specific performance indicators we’ll measure our designated funds work against, read our Designated funds plan 2020-2025.

If you have questions that aren’t answered here, please use the links below to be directed to the relevant contact information for your request.

Press and media

General questions and current applications