Creating world-class national infrastructure research capability
Inadequate infrastructure costs the nation £2M a day, and extreme events can cost hundreds of millions more. To plan for the future, we need a coherent national research programme to de-risk, help prioritise and provide evidence for investment. Existing research is fragmented and under-resourced.
The UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities (UKCRIC) will provide leadership and support for the development and growth of a coordinated and coherent, world class, UK-based national infrastructure research community, spanning at least 14 universities. It will engage government, city and commercial policy makers, investors, citizens and academia in a joint venture that drives innovation and value creation in the exploitation of services provided by national infrastructure. Through central coordination, providing a focal point for knowledge transfer, UKCRIC will support a step-change in the nation’s approach to infrastructure investment. It will also develop a commercial resource that has considerable export potential for an international market that is valued at $57 trillion in the period up to 2030.
UKCRIC will understand how to make the system of systems that constitutes the nation’s infrastructure more resilient to extreme events and more adaptable to changing circumstances and contexts, and how it can provide services that are more affordable, accessible and usable to the whole population.
Who are we
Initial partners in UKCRIC represent 14 of the major university-based infrastructure, civil and construction engineering research groups in the UK.
The vision for UKCRIC firmly addresses the 5 key principles of the 2014 Science & Innovation Strategy:
- Allocation of resources based first and foremost on excellence:
- An ethos of collaboration, both within UKCRIC’s initial membership, with excellent researchers nationally and internationally, and with industry.
- Coordinated by UKCRIC’s Coordination Node, and underpinned by world-class facilities, an ability to respond to changing research needs in an agile way.
- A sense of ‘place’: research on the nation’s major cities, with cities, for cities.
- A focus on openness: open access to facilities, open data, open software, open and consensual governance.
Our vision is to understand how to make the system of systems that constitutes the nation’s infrastructure more resilient to extreme events and more adaptable to changing circumstances and contexts, and how it can provide services that are more affordable, accessible and usable to the whole population.
With this vision UKCRIC will:
- Build on existing capabilities to establish a network of state-of-the-art large-scale experimental facilities supporting world-leading research in cities and infrastructure;
- Establish a unique, national network of local ‘urban laboratories’ to sense, capture, monitor and evaluate new and existing infrastructure in UK towns and cities;
- Establish world-leading computation and big data infrastructure for the modelling, simulation, and visualisation of cities and infrastructure;
- Coordinate UK research in cities and infrastructure nationally, promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing between disciplines and across sectors;
- Amplify and grow existing activity to provide a focus for industrial engagement, knowledge sharing and technology transfer in cities and infrastructure research;
- Provide a focus for policy engagement at local, regional and national levels;
- Act as a focal point for cities and infrastructure research worldwide, maintaining and extending the UK’s knowledge and innovation leadership in the design, planning, delivery, management, and operation of cities and infrastructure.
As a result of these activities, UKCRIC will:
- Generate new knowledge, technologies and digital solutions that reduce the risk of, and add value to, the very large investments in infrastructure that will have to be made over the next 50 years;
- Develop innovative solutions, including digital solutions, to infrastructure problems that reduce the cost of ownership of infrastructure and enhance the value of derived services;
- Radically improve the resilience of infrastructure systems and services against extreme events;
Grow and maintain the capacity and capability of infrastructure professionals so as to enhance domestic and global commercial market opportunities.
UKCRIC supports the wider UK research strategy. For example, it aligns to three major Research Council themes, namely Living With Environmental Change (LWEC), Energy, and Global Uncertainties.
It directly addresses the first four Engineering Grand Challenges prioritised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in 2015: (1) Sustainable engineering solutions to provide water for all; (2) Future Cities; (3) Engineering across length scales; and, (4) Identifying risk and building resilience into engineered systems.
Three interlinked principal components are needed to realise the research vision, combining experimental, simulation and big data research paradigms
Geographical spread of investments
- A set of interlinked National Laboratories (Strand A) for research on the basic science, technology and engineering that underpins the economic infrastructure sectors and delivers innovative solutions meeting international, national and city needs.
- A National Observatory of networked ‘urban laboratories’ (Strand B), for rapid trialling of solutions at scale and gathering/curating large volumes of diverse data about current and proposed infrastructure so as to allow policies, regulation, systems and capital investments to be made on the basis of evidence, analysis and innovation.
- A Multi-level Modelling and Simulation environment (Strand C), to enable ‘what if’ experiments to be carried out in a high performance computing environment on possible large scale solutions at national, regional and city level; this will allow the de-risking of proposed large scale investments, give insights into possible futures and highlight new mechanisms for value capture and benefit realisation.
These three components must all exist in synergy and their work must be coordinated, via a national Coordination Node (D), to get the most out of the investment. A number of current UK research programmes, foresight studies, demonstrator projects and catapults are converging around the challenges of sustainable city governance and modernization of national and city infrastructure. Coordinating these will provide valuable insights into the impact of investments on the whole life cycle of infrastructure for all stakeholders; the optimized use of the proposed significantly enhanced capital investment; and the interdependency of outcomes that have a critical impact on national and city infrastructure. All these have a vital role to play in meeting the needs of the UK as a whole and of its cities in particular, thereby enabling the entire nation to realise its full economic growth potential, nationally and internationally, as well as its social and environmental ambitions.