Loughborough University: Proud partner of a £276 million national infrastructure improvement programme, launched today

Loughborough University is part of a multi-million infrastructure research programme which has been officially launched in London today.

The UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) is made up of 14 universities, who will come together to provide cutting-edge research to bolster the country’s rail, urban water, waste, environmental, energy and ICT infrastructures.

Experts and academics will focus on finding ways to make the country more resilient to extreme events and more adaptable to changing circumstances – as well as making public services more affordable, accessible and usable to everybody.

The aim of the programme is to:

  • 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 to enhance domestic and global commercial market opportunities.

Loughborough’s involvement in the £276 million scheme was announced back in 2015 - which includes an investment of £125 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Today, the UKCRIC formally got underway at the International Symposium for Next Generation Infrastructure 2017 (ISNGI), held at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), in London.

Professor Tony Thorpe is leading Loughborough’s participation.

He said: “UKCRIC will provide a unique network of facilities which will to help to ensure that UK-Infrastructure and our cities are ‘fit-for-purpose’ in the years to come.

“At Loughborough, we are delighted to be part of this major national initiative”

With inadequate infrastructure estimated to cost the UK £2 million a day, UKCRIC will allow academia, industry, government and end users to collaborate to upgrade infrastructure and reduce its cost to the nation.

UKCRIC will lead to the development of new materials, techniques and novel technologies, as well as research into issues such as investment in rail systems, roads and flood and water management.

It will also help with the introduction of smart sensors and systems to generate data to optimise the use of assets and networks, while computation and big data infrastructure will be established for the modelling, simulation and visualisation of cities and infrastructure.

UKCRIC partners and facilities

Initial partners in UKCRIC represent 14 of the major university-based infrastructure, civil and construction engineering research groups in the UK.

The UKCRIC research facilities comprise a co-ordinated set of interlinked National Laboratories, a National Observatory of networked urban laboratories and a Multi-level Modelling and Simulation environment, which are geographically spread throughout the UK. This involves three stages:

  • A set of interlinked National Laboratories 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 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 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.

Urban observatories are already up and running having benefited from substantial inward investment, and have established local authority and stakeholder partnerships and offer ready pathways for delivering impact. The National Laboratories are under various stages of funding and development.

UKCRIC National Laboratories include:

National Buried Infrastructure Facility, Birmingham

This facility will enable assessment of fully-instrumented buried pipes, culverts, shallow tunnels, barrier walls and other structures at or near full scale. The refurbished Transient Railway Aerodynamics Investigation (TRAIN) rig will facilitate research into air pollution, pressure transients and sonic booms in tunnels. The aim is to deliver lower costs, greater reliability and more value to citizens. It will also develop a better understanding of the interdependencies between buried infrastructure and linear infrastructure.

National Infrastructure Lab, Southampton

This lab will focus on transport infrastructure, predominantly rail. It will provide a greater understanding of soil-structure-vehicle interactions of trackway systems and innovative structures that will drive the intelligent design, remediation and management of linear infrastructure systems. The aim is to deliver higher value, lower cost reliable and safe transport for people and freight. This is particularly needed in the context of increasing demands placed on urban systems and more extreme events.

Centre for Infrastructure Materials; Imperial College London, Leeds, Manchester

The three-partner institutions within this National Centre will all develop facilities according to their respective strengths. The Centre will be a networked facility for underpinning materials research on both existing and novel infrastructure materials. New materials and new construction methods have been designed in response to increased performance requirements, but there is a pressing need for scientific research that provides the underlying knowledge to support the adoption of these materials in order to address increasing resource scarcity, urbanisation and zero carbon goals.

National Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction (SoFSI) Facility, Bristol

The ways in which real structures, such as offshore wind turbines, large span bridges, rail tracks, nuclear power plants and buildings, actually interact with their foundations and the surrounding soil are still inadequately understood.  The resulting conservatisms in design, construction and operation, drive up costs and inhibit innovation.  The National Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction (SoFSI) facility will take advantage of world leading control and actuation technologies, developed in Bristol’s BLADE laboratories, which now enable well-controlled experiments on prototype, or near-prototype, scale SoFSI specimens.  Such tests will fill key gaps in understanding of the fundamental mechanics of these systems. The new, highly adaptable and extensible SoFSI facility will also deliver a unique, high value, capability for de-risking investments in innovation and development, for example in life-extension techniques for existing infrastructure or the application of new materials and devices.

National Research Facility for Infrastructure Sensing, Cambridge

This research facility will focus on research in the application and development of advanced sensor technologies for the monitoring of the UK’s existing and future infrastructure, in order to improve resilience and extract maximum whole life value. The use of advanced sensors and appropriate data analysis will ensure better product quality, enhanced construction safety, and smarter asset management.

Urban Water Infrastructure Facility; Cranfield, Newcastle, Sheffield

The UKCRIC Urban Water Innovation & Test Facilities at Cranfield, Sheffield, and Newcastle will provide capabilities to advance our understanding of long term performance and serviceability of water infrastructure; test the effectiveness of active and passive technologies for managing flood water in urban areas; deliver cheaper and more environmentally benign approaches to water treatment; enable full-scale testing of new technologies for treatment, distribution and collection networks and flood management; and pilot smart water management systems. Investment in a suite of complementary water infrastructure research facilities across three of the UK’s leading water research groups will provide an internationally leading capacity.

Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL), UCL

Innovation in infrastructure system design often flounders because interaction with human users occurs in an unexpected way (an example of this was the Thames Millennium Footbridge). The models used to design systems such as buses, tube trains and railway coaches have been, until recently, woefully inadequate and unsupported by real evidence and data. This investment expands on the existing and very successful and influential work carried out at UCL (influencing Crossrail, TFL, Thameslink, Singapore MRT) to enable experiments involving people to be carried out on a large scale, in more diverse conditions, investigating accessibility issues for elderly and disabled. This will reduce the cost of ownership of rolling stock and public transport vehicle investments, generate more revenue for operators and provide greater utility for citizens.

National Observatory of Integrated Urban Infrastructure Labs, Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Strathclyde

UKCRIC’s network of interlinked urban infrastructure observatories are for the digital capture, mapping, sensing, monitoring, and testing of real urban infrastructure systems over the long term. The key objective is to capture the complex interrelations and interactions of real systems with the environment, people and society. The research will be enabled by close collaboration with local government and industrial partners.

Results will be used in combination with data from experiments on infrastructure systems and sub-systems and work in modelling and simulation to construct an urban infrastructure systems model (or a federated suite of models) that can be validated and refined as our understanding improves.

Data Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI), Oxford

This investment will enable unprecedented understanding of complex cities and infrastructures to inform planning, design and management. Coupled with better data from sensors and the urban observatories this investment will produce more rapid and more reliable predictions of the impact of options in infrastructure investment across and between all infrastructure sectors. Building on a considerable investment already made by RCUK in modelling tools and expertise, this investment accelerates the exploitation of that expertise into commercial organisations. This will enable further de-risking of all large-scale infrastructure investments.

UKCRIC vision

The vision of UKCRIC is to provide leadership and support for the development and growth of a coordinated and coherent, world class, UK-based national infrastructure research community, which engages 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.

State-of-the-art new facilities to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure will be created at 11 universities as part of the programme. UKCRIC will initially be established at 14 universities to conduct world-leading research through a network of experimental facilities and urban laboratories.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive, said: “Today’s launch of the UCRIC is an important step in the UK’s approach to infrastructure planning, construction and use. Research is vital to ensuring we develop and adopt systems that will be resilient and adaptable to change, and will make the UK a fully connected nation.”

For more information visit: www.ukcric.com


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 17/125

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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines. It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects in the 2017 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough was ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018 and 10th in The UK Complete University Guide 2018 and was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017. It has been awarded a Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework, which recognises institutions that deliver consistently outstanding teaching that is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.