Building capacity through innovation


Project background and context for the Innovation festival

CIfA, in collaboration with the Association of Local Government Archaeologists (ALGAO), was commissioned by Historic England to undertake a project entitled Building capacity through innovation (HE7879), which also included the organisation of an event (the CIfA Innovation festival). This project was commissioned to address feedback in the 2017 21st century challenges for archaeology workshop series that highlighted a lack of innovation in developer-led archaeology. The aim of the project was to explore this observation, identify the potential barriers and issues inhibiting the wider implementation of innovative approaches and present recommendations for improvement.

Project report and appendices

The project report was finalised in June 2021 and can be access below. Survey data were collected, and online discussions were undertaken to provide information related to practitioners’ perceptions and experience of innovation in developer-led archaeology. Several examples showcasing the different types of innovative practice taking place across the historic environment sector are also included. The survey data highlighted a number of potential barriers to innovation in developer-led archaeology but also highlighted that the historic environment sector does see itself as innovative, regularly adopting/adapting new science, technologies and methods for archaeological practice across developer-led archaeology. ​The report summarises the data and discusses the identified barriers to innovation outlining several proposed recommendations for improvement. These focus on the themes of facilitating knowledge exchange and the dissemination of information across the historic environment sector.



 Project report

Appendix 1.1

 Summarised survey data

Appendix 1.2 

 Survey summary

Appendix 2


Appendix 3.1

 Innovation example (Making Ground Penetrating Radar more efficient)

Appendix 3.2

 Innovation example (Geoarchaeological approach to evaluating large land parcels)

Appendix 3.3

 Innovation example (ERT and EM surveys)

Appendix 3.4

 Innovation example (Geochemical sampling as a method for archaeological evaluation and   prospection)

Appendix 3.5

 Innovation example (New approach to understanding Historic Landscape using National HLC   datasets)

Appendix 3.6

 Innovation example (QGIS stylesheets)

Appendix 3.7

 Innovation example (Provenancing Roman iron)

Appendix 3.8


 Innovation example (Innovative open access publishing)

 Innovation example (Innovative approach to outreach)

Appendix 4

 Internet Archaeology open access publishing


CIfA Innovation festival links and resources 

The historic environment is rich and diverse benefiting from a wide variety of specialisms. Collaborations spanning academic, community-led and developer-funded archaeological research provide fascinating insights to our collective past often with the help of new/adapted ‘innovative’ approaches. However, implementing innovation is not always straightforward as highlighted in the Building capacity through innovation project. The innovation festival was held as a follow on to this project and was made up of a series of events that took place over the week of 25 - 29 January 2021. These events provided the opportunity to showcase and celebrate the innovative practices and approaches being undertaken across the historic environment sector, whilst tabling some of the identified barriers and challenges to implementing innovation in archaeological research for wider discussion. Resources and links will be added below.

Festival hashtag

To access comments and feedback about the festival on Twitter please use #CIfAInnovation

Session recordings

The festival comprised a mixture of sessions, webinars, workshops and discussion panels. The majority of these were recorded and the links can be found below.

Monday, 25 January

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

WEBINAR: Digital and analog drawing in archaeology: The Aide Memoire Project (recording coming soon)

12:00 PM - 12:45 PM DISCUSSION: lunchbreak chat (no recording available)
14:00 PM - 17:30 PM SESSION: working practices 


Tuesday, 26 January

9:00 AM - 11:00 AM SESSION: born digital: recording rebooted (part 1 recording and part 2 recording)
12:30 PM - 13:30 PM WEBINAR: A new set of threads: the production and design of Into the Wildwoods and The First Foresters  
14:00 PM - 17:30 PM SESSION: innovative approaches 


Wednesday, 27 January

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM WEBINAR: social media in development-led archaeology (no recording available)
12:00 PM - 13:30 PM PANEL DISCUSSION: innovation in practice (Developer-led, planning) 
14:00 PM - 15:00 PM  WEBINAR: heritage at the heart of major developments (no recording available)
15:30 PM - 18:00 PM  SESSION: delivering public benefit 


Thursday, 28 January

9:00 AM - 11:00 AM WORKSHOP: Meaningful metadata (recording of introduction available only)
12:00 PM - 13:00 PM SESSION: building information modelling for heritage 
14:00 PM - 17:00 PM WORKSHOP: an introduction to podcasting and archaeology


Friday, 29 January

9:00 AM - 11:00 AM WORKSHOP: innovation by design (recording of introduction available only)
12:00 PM - 15:00 PM SESSION: academic research - what's new? 
15:30 PM - 17:00 PM PANEL DISCUSSION: innovation in practice (community engagement)


Academic/early career poster submissions

Dr Tanya Dzhanfezova, University of Oxford
Mapping intentionality: demonstrating innovation in Neolithic pottery uptake in the Eastern Balkans’ (H2020-MSCA-IF-2017)

The Archaeologist 'Innovation' issue

The Winter 2021 issue of The Archaeologist magazine was focused on innovation to tie in with the wider Building capacity through innovation project and the CIfA Innovation festival.

TA112 Innovation.pdf (

Free to CIfA members
Non-members can purchase a copy for £10 - please contact

Internet Archaeology Special Issue on Innovation

Coming later in 2021