National Highways trialling modern solutions to age-old graffiti problem


01 Feb 2022

We have chosen three competitors to develop their ideas and test their products at West Midlands sites

National Highways trialling modern solutions to age-old graffiti problem

Three pioneering ideas to tackle the scourge of graffiti alongside roads and on bridges are to be trialled by National Highways after being selected as finalists in an innovations competition.

A wall-climbing paint-spraying robot, an anti-graffiti chemical coating and technology to detect vandals at graffiti hotspots are the three ideas chosen as potential solutions for the continuing problem of unsightly graffiti.

We launched the competition last year to find innovative and modern products to remove graffiti and also potential solutions that will prevent it appearing in the first place.

Removing graffiti uses up money that would be better spent on the roads network and can cost up to £10,000 to remove one instance of graffiti. The vandalism is also a distraction for drivers and often requires road closures to remove it safely.

We're running the competition with partners Kier and Connected Places Catapult. More than a dozen companies entered the first stage of the competition with the five most promising entries getting up to £30,000 to spend taking their products forward.

Each produced a feasibility study which was considered by judges. Three have now been chosen to share a £90,000 pot enabling them to further develop their ideas and take the products out for testing at sites in the West Midlands.

National Highways Head of Innovation, Annette Pass, said:

“People are, quite rightly, annoyed by the sight of graffiti in their communities and we are determined to find innovative new products that work quickly, safely, are cost-effective and eco-friendly to deal with the problem.

“The three concepts we have selected are very different but very exciting and could offer some innovative solutions to the age-old problem of graffiti. We look forward to seeing the results of the trials.”

The winning ideas

The three successful ideas from the competition are:


Wall-climbing robotics which would apply graffiti preventative paints, reducing the risk of such hazards as working at heights for the workforce.

Nano Eco Group

A chemical coating to prevent the adhesion of graffiti to a variety of surfaces and films.

Sensing Feeling and Innovation Factory

These two separate entries will now work together on an audio-video recognition solution with sensors to detect the application of graffiti which will then trigger lights and alarms.

Kier Head of Innovation, Tom Tideswell, said:

“These new methods of removing graffiti have the potential to save on time, they can reduce inherent risks of working at height as well as the exposure of our teams to live traffic when installing and removing traffic management. This should improve on journey times for road users as well as the aesthetic aspect of the network.”

Connected Places Catapult Executive Director, Paul Bate, said:

“One of the key purposes of this innovation competition has been to demonstrate and build confidence in the use of new technologies to tackle the problem of graffiti.  The investment being made in these trials will help to progress these innovative solutions towards commercial deployments, with the potential, not only to improve journeys for road users, but to help put great UK companies on the path to further success.”

The competition follows last year's trial of solutions to remove or prevent graffiti that took place over two days at an off-road site at Gravelly Hill Interchange – more commonly known as Spaghetti Junction – in Birmingham. The aim of the trials was to evaluate the performance of newly-identified products on the market and increase the range of solutions available for use on the road network