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ASPARi 5.0 Roadmap 2023-2026

The Founders met on 30 June 2022 and conducted a brainstorm session to discuss the continuation and future of ASPARi’s research program, the so-called ASPARi 5.0. During the session, the research of the past four years was evaluated, the interview results of meetings conducted with all Founders discussed, and a joint vision was developed about plans for the upcoming research phase. The University of Twente was tasked with writing a draft Roadmap based on the discussions. This should be presented at the next brainstorm session scheduled for 29 August 2022. This document has 2 parts: (1) a short reflection on the themes covered since the start of the collaboration and a summary of achievements, and (2) the proposed ASPARi 5.0 roadmap.

Part 1 - Looking back

This important collaboration between researchers of the University of Twente and key role players in asphalt construction has been ongoing since 2006 when several companies decided to bundle their strengths with the aim of professionalizing Road Construction. Combining the knowledge and experience of both industry and the university (fundamental research into process analysis), the network aimed to advance professionalization and improve the competitive position of companies in asphalt construction.

Central to the ASPARi approach are: [1] gaining insight into the construction (operational) methods of asphalt roads, [2] integrating the construction process with other phases of the process (such as design or work preparation), [3] the application of SMART technologies, and [4] integrating research, process improvement, training, and technology development. These steps contribute to better control of the process, quality, and the associated risks.

The ASPARi network has since expanded to 10 of the largest construction companies in the Netherlands and has recently been joined by Rijkswaterstaat, the national road agency. It has resulted in an almost unique collaborative network between academics and industry working towards a single goal, that of improving the quality of asphalt construction. The first years focused on making operational behavior explicit i.e., developing insights into variability in the asphalt construction process using a “measuring is knowing” approach. Monitoring construction processes using off-the-shelf sensors and innovative data visualization techniques (plots), resulting in the network learning valuable lessons in terms of road construction variability, process control, technology development, data analytics and visualization, machine development, and many others. The dominant studies undertaken in Phase 2 were the alignment of the laboratory design process and actual construction strategies, and the first steps towards developing interactive visualization environments using blended reality. Noteworthy is that the first knowledge transfer sessions took place during this phase with several training workshops conducted for asphalt crews, laboratory technicians, planners, and estimators, facilitated jointly through technologist, laboratory, and PQi subcommittees.  


The latter years have seen these lessons learned translated into innovative education materials for vocational training schools and Universities of Applied Sciences. Whilst the MBO learning materials have been implemented on a wide scale, work needs to be done to achieve the same level of implementation at the HBO institutions. Notable achievements during the current phase have been researching into refining the PQi methodology, real-time process control, and the first steps in exploring machine guidance and automation of the compaction process. Ongoing projects include developing: a life-cycle ontology, a digital twin for road maintenance, and a model for coupling process and product quality using machine learning.

Fundamental research carried out by a combination of doctoral candidates, master and bachelor students, and the direct involvement of construction companies in the supervision of students and monitoring of construction projects resulted in a steep learning curve for everyone involved. In essence, studies were carried out for and by industry. The lessons learned and recommendations made had the sole purpose of bringing about process control improvements from within and for participating industry partners. This distinctly unique “bottom up” approach has at its core, working with companies and construction teams in particular, to reduce process variability. Figure 1 shows the collaboration timeline and main themes dealt with during each of the past phases.

timeline collaboration.jpg

Figure 1 - the ASPARi timeline 2006 to the present

The achievements can be categorized in several ways including conference, journal and other publications, student graduation project theses, conference attendances, keynote speakers, etc. Perhaps more important is that researchers and Founders have developed knowledge and expertise in related areas due to their direct involvement in supervising bachelor and master projects or being part of advisory committee teams linked to PDEng and PhD projects. To date, 3 PhD and 4 PDEng projects have successfully been completed with an additional PhD and 4 PDEng projects to be completed by the end of 2022.  By end of this year, 40 bachelor and 15 master students will have successfully completed their projects within the research unit. The work has resulted in more than …. publications, a mixture of journal, conference, technical and magazine articles.

Remarkably, other projects and collaborations of note have been carried out that have largely benefited the asphalt construction sector. These include the development of a mutually beneficial working relationship with machine manufacturers through the Leveranciersdag commission, the successful running of Opdrachtgever workshops, and the involvement of several ASPARi Founders in Asfalt Impuls committees, to name a few.  The development of learning materials for the MBO and HBO sectors deserves special mention since it exemplifies the successful collaboration between academia and industry. New learning materials developed for the sector could not have been possible without the direct input of ASPARi and other experts writing state-of-the-art modules, and these being translated into curriculum-worthy content by university researchers. Another noteworthy example of “developed by and for” the industry.  It is no wonder that the Netherlands is seen to be at the forefront of expertise relating to asphalt construction and process control and is seen as an excellent testing, verifying, and validating ground for new technologies, systems, and sensor modalities. It is from this position of strength that we intend to build the next successes.  


Part 2 – The proposed ASPARi 5.0 Roadmap

Input for this draft Roadmap was discussed at a joint Founders brainstorming session on 30 June 2022, the outcomes of which are the following:

  1. Recognition of the importance and value of the ASPARi research.

  2. Recognition of the importance of the primary aim/purpose of process improvement in which the reduction of process variability is the main focus. Asphalt construction teams, planners, estimators, technologists, laboratory technicians, and managers are key stakeholders in controlling and improving primary processes, quality, and dealing with issues of risk. Therefore, they continue to play an important role in the research initiatives and are the main recipients of the research outcomes.

  3. Given recent developments, recognition of the role that road authorities can play in stimulating the widespread adoption and implementation of SMART technologies and digitalization in its broadest sense.  

  4. Acknowledgment that education and education renewal is vital for giving current staff and new trainees the skills they need to succeed in a digital construction world and helping them grow the confidence to practice those skills, make sense of data and visuals, share and use it in smart ways.

  5. Going forward, recognition that issues of Sustainability, Circularity, and Durability need to be addressed given concerns relating to climate change, the reduction of emissions, and less reliance on natural resources and fossil fuels.

  6. Acknowledgment that continuation of ASPARi is desirable and that commitment is assured for the period 2023 to 2026.

  7. The proposed roadmap offers good starting points for the coming years.

  8. The Founders prefer that, the pillars Reduction of Process Variability and Digitalisation be particularly focused on and that these form the basis for research and developmental work in the other 2 pillars. Other focus areas not specifically mentioned in the road map can be carried out via short-funded projects, BSc or MSc graduation projects, or in another appropriate form.


Considerations for setting up the roadmap:

  • The roadmap must be seen in light of the viability and continuity of ASPARi.

  • This roadmap is intentionally based on the ASPARi profile to professionalize and modernize asphalt construction.

  • The projects as named in the roadmap indicate the main points. This involves thinking in terms of “larger projects” that have a longer lead time and whose insights build on what is available and will form the basis for further research. It is, of course, still possible to implement elements of this or subsequently as smaller projects, and/or as final projects for undergraduate students.


Based on discussions with the Founders, we see research and development in four contextual pillars:

  1. Improvement of process control: projects in this pillar are focused on process improvement from an operational/organizational perspective. They are purposely directed at the reduction of variability, the adoption of method-based (scientific) practices, and making improvements in terms of planning, organization, and logistics.

  2. Digitalization: research undertaken by the network shows that there are significant benefits to be gained in terms of improvements in quality and productivity. Also, there are far-reaching implications given an increasingly digital world within the context of Industry 4.0, a popular term used to describe trends toward digitization and automation of manufacturing processes.

  3. Education and training – the large-scale adoption and implementation of new technologies and digitalization results in changing roles for operators, engineers, and managers. Also, the Netherlands is experiencing a significant shortage of skilled workers in construction and a continued increase in the number of contract workers. This raises concerns about future skills and competencies, and thus, a need to continually upscale asphalt construction education and materials at the vocational, technological, and scientific education levels. What’s more, changing roles highlights the need to develop and implement innovative tools (VR and simulation) to upscale the skills of both new entrants and currently employed workers.   

  4. Monitoring and Durability: these have economic, social, technological, and environmental implications. Monitoring, data-driven degradation models, life-cycle prediction, predictive maintenance strategies, and emission-free solutions amongst others, can address some of these important concerns.  


Based on the aforementioned, 4 main themes (pillars) are distinguished for the ASPARi program for 2023-2026, in which the various initiatives, developments, and projects can be clearly defined and incorporated. The outcomes are encapsulated in the following infographic (Figure 2):


Figure 2 - Proposed main themes

Theme 1: Improving process control

Purpose: Reduction of process variability


  1. Refining the PQi method, tools, data collection, data analytics, and innovative visuals (e.g. GUI)

  2. The implementation & integration of real-time process control systems and practical tools for planning, construction, and logistics (descriptive to prescriptive, system integration approach)

  3. Developing innovative, non-invasive ways of measuring parameters such as layer thickness and density in real-time


Theme 2: Digitalization

Purpose: Attain improvements in quality and productivity for the entire life cycle


  1. Data acquisition, sharing and exchange using SMART technologies

  2. Data-driven simulation and modelling for various life cycle phases

  3. Developing Pavement Lifecycle Digital Twins to seamlessly integrate processes, people, technologies, and products


Theme 3: Education and training

Purpose: to ensure that current and future skills and competencies are relevant given the context of Industry 4.0.


  1. Developing and maintaining education materials for all levels of education

  2. Enhancing capacity building for the entire sector using workshops, seminars and symposia

  3. Developing innovative tools (e.g. simulators, VR and AR) for the training of new and current construction staff


Theme 4: Monitoring and Durability

Purpose: To reduce the sector’s impact on the environment and address drivers of change such as the energy transition, the need for increased durability and a more sustainable asphalt sector.


  1. Designing strategies, systems and monitoring tools for emission-free equipment & jobsites

  2. Designing preventative maintenance strategies

  3. Developing pavement performance and degradation models using design, construction, inspection and other data

  4. Exploring and developing climate change strategies for the pavement lifecycle (models, guidelines, frameworks, decision-support tools)

  5. Developing guidelines for systemic decision-making

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