Awarded to Experis Limited

Start date: Tuesday 15 December 2020
Value: £278,220
Company size: large
Highways England Company Limited

Ontology Visualisation

10 Incomplete applications

8 SME, 2 large

17 Completed applications

10 SME, 7 large

Important dates

Thursday 8 October 2020
Deadline for asking questions
Thursday 15 October 2020 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Thursday 22 October 2020 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
Development of functionality for Highways England’s corporate ontology so that it can be filtered and visualised in a manner that is accessible to non-technical staff.
Latest start date
Tuesday 1 December 2020
Expected contract length
4 months
East of England
Organisation the work is for
Highways England Company Limited
Budget range
Maximum spend £280,000.

About the work

Why the work is being done
It is important for an organisation as complex as Highways England to understand the nature and structure of the data that we manage and use in the construction, maintenance, and operation of the Strategic Road Network.

We have a complex and ever-changing IT estate. To make systemic improvements we need the components of our IT estate to share common data definitions. This will allow us to provide users with a semantic layer to interact with so that they can make data-driven decisions without needing to understand the underlying complexity. Our investment in our ontology and data architecture seeks to build a consistent, flexible, and future-proof means to map out our data entities, their definitions and relationships, and is available to view here:

It is also increasingly important for organisations such as HE to be able to exchange information with other infrastructure owners and operators using standard conventions (see the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s ‘Towards an Information Management Framework’ report: ).
Problem to be solved
To date we have built our Ontology through extensive engagement with our wider business, and review of our own literature. The existing toolset- Stanford University’s WebProtégé online platform- is relatively good at allowing experienced users to build .owl ontology files. However, ontologies quickly become sizeable and dense as entities and relationships are added, and WebProtégé provides only limited functionality to help users visualise, filter, or explore parts of the ontology. This limits the usefulness of the ontology to the business. It makes the outputs inaccessible to non-technical users, which limits our ability to review and develop the ontology in collaboration with the wider organisation. It also limits the usefulness of the ontology for the purposes of system design, by preventing solution architectures from quickly visualising the subset of the ontology that is relevant to a particular project or solution. Finally, whilst WebProtégé is, as the name suggests, web-based, it is an academic product, placing necessary constraints on the speed of the solution, making access to the ontology somewhat clunky, and meaning that or work is dependent on the on-going funding of a project by a foreign academic institution.
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a business user I need to be able to view and filter the ontology to visualise the data entities, relationships, and definitions that pertain to a business process, use case, or area of interest.

Filtering, in this context, means reducing the number of data entities and relationships visualised using criteria such as:
- Showing only data entities within n steps of one or more data entities;
- Showing only relationships of a type (we currently have ‘affects’, ‘operation of’, ‘properties’ and ‘is affected by’ as our relationship types);
- Showing the paths between two data entities;
- Showing only data entities with a property (for example a specific tag);
- All of the above.

For example, if I am working on a CRM system, I may wish to see all data entities that have a relationship with the ‘Customer’ and ‘Stakeholder’ data entities. I may then filter to only show ‘operation of’ relationships.
The visualisation should be clear, legible, and aesthetically appealing, preferably using open source tools such as d3 (or potentially proprietary tools like Neo4j).

This should all be possible using Highways England standard locked down laptops without the need to install any additional software.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
We have made substantial investment in our data management infrastructure using the Microsoft Azure cloud. This has included development of an ontology and methodology for data architecture.

For extensive background information please visit (you will need to request access, please reference ‘Ontology Visualisation’ in that request)
Existing team
The winning bidder will need to work alongside our incumbent data platform supplier (BJSS Ltd., and the broader CDO team).
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Highways England, Woodlands, Manton Lane, Bedford, MK41 7LW.
Working arrangements
Our business is located across the whole of England and so are our teams and suppliers. We would expect our supplier to work flexibly and be mobile when required, but also support remote working and the utilisation of collaboration tools.
Security clearance
We expect all our suppliers to have BPSS as a minimum.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Data Architecture
  • Ontology
  • Web App Development
  • Graph visualisation (e.g. d3, Neo4j, Gephi or similar)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Data standards for Digital Twin and BIM
  • Support documentation, training, and handover
  • Web App Testing, CI/CD
  • Agile Project Management
Nice-to-have skills and experience
Transport / Infrastructure sector experience

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Technical Solution
  • Approach and methodolgy
  • Team Structure
  • Risks and dependencies
  • Value for money
Cultural fit criteria
  • How do you make data and ontologies accessible to non-technical staff?
  • How do you make your solutions user-friendly?
  • How do you help to create capability in the organisations you work with?
  • How do we learn to use your solution, and how can we make best use of it?
  • How do you excite and engage non-technical staff?
  • How do you excite and engage IT staff? (e.g. solution architects, enterprise architects, service delivery managers, etc.)
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Would it be possible to get access to the referenced material – for example the sharepoint link.
2. can we have a copy of the link as we cannot access the information:
This is a substantial SharePoint site and not easy to copy. Please email if you cannot access the page by using the 'Request Access' functionality.
3. Are you willing to sponsor supplier resources who require BPSS clearance?
4. Please can you confirm that the scope of this opportunity is to develop an application to enable the visualisation of ontology files (e.g..owl), and that the maintenance/update of ontology files is out of scope?
Correct. We want the visualisation to help facilitate our internal processes for maintaining and updating the .owl
5. Please can you advise on the process for requesting access to the referenced material on the Highways England SharePoint site? I am currently unable to view the materials as I don't exist in the directory.
You should see a 'Request Access' option, which if you submit we will be able to provide you with access. If this does not work then please email
6. The link provided in answer to the previous question doesn't seem to be accessible to us, requiring Sharepoint authentication we don't have. Could you please provide a public link?
You should see a 'Request Access' option, which if you submit we will be able to provide you with access. If this does not work then please email
7. With the request being able to visualize and update.owl being the primary ask within the Ontology, we have tool that has been used for internal purposes – we allow customers to use free of cost.

Question since we've used but still refining functionaity...looking for recommendations on how to represent in a proposal that gleans value
Should you be shortlisted there will be ample opportunity to describe the value you can add in your technical proposal.
8. we would want to work remotely but with site visits on the normal cadence (but is this irrelevant in the covid situation).
Yes, site visits are entirely subject to the prevailing COVID situation.
9. Please can you advise when will you make a decision as to which companies will go to the next proposals stage?
We will look to advise on this week commencing October 26th.
10. I have emailed the DAAS email address a few days ago, but have had nothing back. I am keen to access all the materials I can to best match our proposal to your requirement. As time is short before the tender deadline next week, could you please get these replies sent out. Thank you.
Yes, there has been a bit of a backlog, sorry. We believe that we have provided access to everyone who requested it, but please continue to email if we have missed you, or if your access continues to be challenging.
11. Are suppliers able to use multiple examples for questions that reference different elements within the question?
Yes, multiple examples are acceptable.
12. Can the end user devices be expected to have a stable internet connection, or does the entire application need to be usable offline?
We would expect this to be delivered as a webservice rather than a local installation.
13. How large is the existing dataset that needs visualising? Is it just the ontology we can see in WebProtoge?
Correct, though this needs to be extensible (e.g. we need to be able to update and expand our ontology and see this reflected in the visualisation).
14. Where is the Ontology and where would like it hosted in the future (DaaS)?
It is currently hosted in our Azure Repo:
We are open to hosting options, though exposing from our Azure estate is probably the best option.
15. How many use cases are you expecting to form part of the Alpha?
The advertisement describes the outcomes that we want to accomplish from this investment.
16. What is the depth of the query of the ontology?
Negotiable. The more the better.
17. How would you like us to handle low areas maturity of maturity for the use case?
Unclear, we would need to plan this as part of mobilisation.
18. Are we expected to extend the ontology as part of this contract if limitations of the existing ontology?
The focus of the work is on visualisation on the ontology rather than changes. That said, if the work helps to identify obvious gaps or shortcomings that can easily be remedied that would definitely represent added value.