Infrastructure research in the United Kingdom has been neglected for the last 40 years. UKCRIC is a programme that is being constructed to correct that neglect by investing in facilities, research programs, analytics and relationship management with a range of stakeholders throughout the United Kingdom. This will be a paradigm shift in the way in which we develop and invest in infrastructure research in the UK and offers a change over the forthcoming decades for coping with the grand challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change, changing demographics, resource scarcity and social justice.
One of the principle strands of work that UKCRIC will undertake is to observe the development of urban environments that are attempting to cope with these grand challenges and provide a focal point for knowledge transfer between city leaders, citizens and investors in infrastructure. This investment will be carried out by central and local government together with private finance. In order to achieve these investments, a range of facilities are being developed within the UKCRIC umbrella; firstly a number of laboratories to help understand the engineering problems that the development of modern infrastructure will need to address; secondly studies to understand how data can be used to operate cities more effectively and efficiently; thirdly the use of large datasets and very high-speed computing to enable support for better decision-making for investments and operations of infrastructure-based services. A number of these facilities are already running and are fostering multi-and inter-disciplinary academic partnerships and academic activities. They are also attracting international interest in a number of countries.
We are at the beginning of a long journey to improve infrastructure research in the United Kingdom and at the present there are a range of somewhat disparate activities going on in the UK to generate the capability for an integrated programme. The process of integration is being led from a fourth strand of work, a Coordination Node so that whilst all of the individual activities described above are centered around excellent research teams the integration of the programmes of research to deliver large-scale missions in support of the vision of UKCRIC will become the norm.
An annual report that is written in the first two years of a multi-decade programme will inevitably contain more about ambition than results. However, in this and in future reports, it will become evident that there is considerable progress in the preparation of the capacity and capability to carry out the work needed to deliver the vision of UKCRIC and also that the success so far has attracted considerable attention from policymakers in government in cities and in the infrastructure markets and other researchers around the world.
Professor Brian Collins, UKCRIC Convenor (2015-2018)
Key Infrastructure Statistics
Building Skills and Leadership
The UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), working closely with government and industry, will coordinate training enhancement activities to ensure that the UK becomes a global centre of excellence for infrastructure research training.
Through collaborative postdoctoral training (Masters, PhD, EngD), research projects, and continuing professional development (CPD) courses, UKCRIC will train the next generation of research, knowledge and innovation leaders, in cities and infrastructure, across the academic, industry and policy sectors. UKCRIC will also influence tertiary education syllabi in a wide range of disciplines to help produce a capable workforce for infrastructure design, delivery and operation. Important skill sets in this respect include the capability to look at infrastructure problems holistically in a systems context and the aptitude to work and deliver solutions in cross-disciplinary and cross-sector teams.
It is expected that more than 100 students and postdoctoral researchers will be trained on UKCRIC’s facilities each year between 2019 and 2024.