iPACT – Infrastructure for Port Cities and Coastal Towns

iPACT – Infrastructure for Port Cities and Coastal Towns

The Sustainable Urban Systems and Infrastructure NetworkPlus (SUSI Network+) call was inspired by the shared goals (e.g., Net Zero, Levelling Up) of three UKRI research councils: the Natural Environment Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. They joined together for this call to create new multidisciplinary research communities to encourage a “system of systems” approach to research challenges. The aim of these new networks was to champion opportunities for environmental solutions in urban contexts for clean growth across UK. A critical motivation was to support and evolve the wider infrastructure and urban systems research communities and extend the value of the previous investment into UKCRIC by expanding the UKCRIC network and utilising its facilities. To this end, SUSI Network+ applicants were encouraged to utilise UKCRIC facilities as much as possible. The three successful SUSI Network+ networks are therefore highly complementary and UKCRIC is planning meetings and an event to explore reciprocal relationships and collaborations going forward.

iPACT is a SUSI Network+ led by the University of Southampton. The network is associated with the Future Towns Innovation Hub which is in development and will be based at the Southampton Science Park at Chilworth.

Factors common to port and coastal cities and towns across the UK have made them underperform in economic and social wellbeing, despite the potential benefits of a coastal location. The issues of a poor built environment, the presence of derelict industrial and other legacy sites, the decline in traditional tourism, and the poor connectivity to the waterfront are exacerbated by rising sea levels and coastal erosion. iPACT is a new multidisciplinary network for research into real, long-lasting, resilient and sustainable infrastructure-led transformations with the objective to level up port and coastal cities and towns.

"iPACT is a new, vibrant, multi-disciplinary community of researchers and research users developing affordable, sustainable, evidence-based, people-centric infrastructure systems solutions for improving social well-being and prosperity to level up coastal communities through resilient, net zero regeneration." -  Professor William Powrie, University of Southampton

Research emphasizes resilient and sustainable regeneration and taking advantage of the coastal location, and will focus its research questions around:

  • Connectivity with the coast
  • Inclusive infrastructure
  • Maintaining and enhancing resilience
  • Coastal region transport
  • Nature-inspired, human scale engineering

The network chose three case study sites which exemplify the issues faced by the spectrum of port cities and towns across the UK. Southampton is faced with the challenges of a working port and lack of public access to the waterfront; Morecambe East is a declining seaside resort with limited economic opportunities; and North Norfolk is a touristic area of historic communities with an ageing population that is also facing coastal erosion and sea-level rise. A series of WeValue community-based consultations has been carried out to elucidate key issues, particularly as felt by under-represented groups and less-heard voices. This was followed by a series of research sandpits in each of the three case study sites from December 2022 to March 2023 to explore potential solutions to the needs of the communities and to develop infrastructure-related projects.

The iPACT network has c£500,000 funding for 5-10 Pilot Study feasibility projects at £50-100k each, which will be conducted from over the next ten months (from April 2023) and developed as bases for further funding. The network is growing into an established and thriving collaborative research and user community which will develop and see implemented sustainable infrastructure solutions to improve the wellbeing, resilience, and sustainability of the UK’s coastal settlements for decades to come.

Membership is open to all researchers as well as potential users and beneficiaries of the research. If you are an academic or a representative of a business, local authority, industry, community group, or other interested party, you are invited to contact the network by emailing ipact@soton.ac.uk and on LinkedIn. Find more information at the Future towns innovation Hub.