Reflections on the July 2020 Management Board Meeting

Reflections on the July 2020 Management Board Meeting
UKCRIC Executive Manager (University of Birmingham)
27 July 2020

The UKCRIC Management Board met on the 9th of July. Kasia Ladds, UKCRIC’s Communications and Marketing Manager, presented the recently-published UKCRIC Annual Review, which was well received. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to download the Review and sit back and relax as you read about UKCRIC’s accomplishments over the last year.

In other good news, the Management Board welcomed Professor Sergio Cavalaro, Chair of Infrastructure Systems at Loughborough University, as the newest member of the UKCRIC Coordination Node. Sergio will lead on skills and leadership development for UKCRIC. And, the Board unanimously approved the name of Loughborough’s UKCRIC Facility: the National Facility for Infrastructure Construction.

The meeting also took stock of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting upon the increasing impact lockdown is having on employee mental health and that ‘returning to normal’ is looking less and less likely. The Coordination Node has been working to understand what the ‘new normal’ will look like – for itself (through the Business Continuation Plan), but also for UKCRIC and infrastructure and cities research and practice. In May the Coordination Node hosted the workshop Infrastructure and Cities in a COVID-19 World, bringing together participants from across the practice and academic sectors. Building upon the outcomes of the workshop, a UKCRIC COVID-19 position piece is being drafted. You can read more about this work here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially shifted everyone’s priorities and UKCRIC is no exception. Four priority areas of activity for the Coordination Node were approved by the Management Board. The Coordination Node will focus its energy on these areas up to the end of its current grant (end of March 2021).

  1. COVID-19
  2. The Oxford Cambridge Arc (with the Arc Universities Group and East West Rail Ltd)
  3. Interaction with other stakeholders e.g. the National Infrastructure Commission and the Institution of Civil Engineers
  4. Transitioning to a UKCRIC Institute

Plans to transition to a UKCRIC Institute beyond March 2021 are nicely coalescing. This meeting saw the presentation of a set of principles for such an institute, alongside framing potential business models. The disruption caused by the pandemic has delayed progress though and so work is underway to assess the UKCRIC-wide impact of the pandemic and the viability of requesting extensions to the various UKCRIC EPSRC grants. The purpose is to enable the continuation of the mutually-supportive relationship between the UKCRIC capital projects, UKCRIC Coordination Node, UKCRIC pump-priming projects, EPSRC and UKRI. To this end, the Coordination Node collated a UKCRIC-wide response to a UKRI/EPSRC request for information on COVID-related impacts and pressures. The Coordination Node’s Transition Management Group, led by Professor Gordon Masterton, is advancing this work.

The next full Management Board meeting is schedule for the 22nd of October 2020.