Mobilising the UKCRIC community around propositions for research and practice

Mobilising the UKCRIC community around propositions for research and practice
UKCRIC Director, Research Integration and UKCRIC Deputy Convenor (University of Birmingham)
24 March 2020

Over the past year or so, the UKCRIC community has collectively decided to advance its research by an approach based on Missions. We have identified four high-level Missions that link national and international goals and priorities with past, present and future Programmes and Projects: 

  • Infrastructure and urban systems for one planet living, which draws in many aspects of the broad sustainability agendas
  • Transformational infrastructure and urban systems for a changing world, bringing the concepts of resilience and adaptability to bear
  • Infrastructure and urban systems as drivers of equity, inclusion and social justice, taking what might be called a ‘liveability lens’ to this landscape
  • Ownership, governance and business models for infrastructure and urban systems, looking at how to integrate transformative principles and practices to the design-construct-operate-maintain sequence

While each Programme and Project, whether large or small, fulfils a specific need and creates its own discrete advances in knowledge, we are now developing “Propositions” as integrating structures around which researchers, practitioners and all other stakeholders can mobilise our collaborative efforts.

Propositions provide a narrative that speaks upward to one or more (maybe all) of the Missions, and beyond them to UK Government and global goals and priorities. Equally, they articulate a narrative that links past, current or new Programmes and Projects to the Proposition to help synthesise and coordinate activities. This in turn enables Programmes and Projects to describe briefly and simply how they contribute to the Proposition’s goals and support the Proposition’s delivery, and to shape the way they can achieve both.

Propositions are emergent and, while not distinguished by scale, they should ideally address intrinsically complex issues and have multiple, coherent discernible outcomes and benefits that support the Missions. They are a way of bundling Programmes and Projects and, as such, should be at a scale that is appropriate for UKCRIC to champion (e.g. to Government or other funders). There are no fixed rules for the creation of a Proposition, though they may helpfully be structured using the DPSIR (Drivers, Pressures, State, Impact and Response) model of intervention. Finally, a Proposition’s narrative will need to be malleable to fit the story to be told and the audience to which it is to be told. 

UKCRIC (as a whole) is in the process of creating a number of Propositions, including A Proposition for Sustainable and Resilient Transport Bridges and A Proposition for Making Effective Interventions in Infrastructure & City Systems. By way of example, a Proposition that combines responsible consumption, resource efficiency and sustainable growth might start with the orange text in the following Missions map. Advancing the narrative will draw in other aspects (e.g. enhancing engineering value, health & wellbeing) as the thinking matures.