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Department of Engineering

Funding boost for infrastructure research at Cambridge

Funding boost for infrastructure research at Cambridge

The skyline of London viewed along the Thames from Waterloo Bridge in London, England.

Two new funding initiatives at the University of Cambridge will support the UK’s infrastructure and cities.

Our outputs present real opportunities to make major improvements in how we create new infrastructure.

Jennifer Schooling

Research at the University of Cambridge to support the UK’s infrastructure and cities has received further backing in the form of two major funding initiatives. The Department of Engineering’s Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) has secured a further five years of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK; while the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), of which Cambridge is a partner, has secured £138 million of funding, to be match funded from other sources, as part of last week’s spending review.

The additional funding to CSIC will allow it to build on its significant achievements over the past five years to become a widely-recognised hub for the infrastructure and construction industry, bringing together leading academics and industrialists, developing a faster route for innovation adoption, providing an ecosystem for building confidence in new innovations and enabling their timely implementation and exploitation.

“CSIC will continue to engage with business leaders and decision makers in key markets to ensure that our work continues to meet industry needs, and that industry leaders are well informed of the value that ‘smart’ innovations in infrastructure and construction can bring to their business,” said Jennifer Schooling, Director of CSIC. “CSIC’s ability to deliver value is unrivalled. Our outputs present real opportunities to make major improvements in how we create new infrastructure.”

There has already been substantial impact of CSIC’s activities in terms of the wide variety of tools and technologies - including fibre optic strain measurement, UtterBerry ultra-low power wireless sensor motes, vibration energy harvesting devices and CSattAR photogrammetric monitoring system - recently deployed on some of the largest civil engineering projects including Crossrail, National Grid, London Underground, CERN and the Staffordshire Alliance.

The application of CSIC’s capability and knowledge is now being broadened to new markets including water infrastructure, highways and power.

“Securing this funding for the next five years offers a wide range of opportunities to take CSIC’s work forward and embed a culture of innovation adoption in the infrastructure and construction industries,” said Schooling. “CSIC cannot achieve this alone – working with industry is the key to our success to date and we always welcome approaches from industry partners seeking to collaborate.”

Professor Philip Nelson, CEO, EPSRC, said: “The Centre will continue its leading role within the UK by increasing the lifetime of ageing infrastructure, making it more resilient, and making construction processes more efficient by using smart sensing technology. This collaborative research between academia and industry will increase the UK’s competitiveness, lead to savings quantified in millions of pounds and provide technology that can be exported for UK based companies.”

Kevin Baughan, Director of Technology and Innovation at Innovate UK said: “The work of CSIC has helped to demonstrate the value of smart infrastructure to the construction industry, and this is reflected in the recognition of innovation at the heart of the future plans of the construction leadership council. By extending funding for a further five years, we underline our support for their commitment to raise the commercialisation bar even higher. This will help companies of all sizes grow through leveraging the excellent UK science base in smart infrastructure.”

UKCRIC is a collaboration of 14 UK universities which aims to provide a knowledge base to ensure the long-term functioning of the UK’s transport systems, energy systems, clean water supplies, waste management, flood defences and the development of SMART infrastructures.

Outside national security and medicine, UKCRIC will be one of the largest collaborative research projects in the UK. Current national and international partners include: Bristol City Council, Network Rail, Mott MacDonald, Buro Happold, Atkins, National Grid, DfT, EDF and Thames Water, with many more partners to follow. In order to tap further into the UK’s expertise and creativity UKCRIC’s founding core of 14 universities will be expanded over the coming years.

Cambridge will receive funding through UKCRIC which will be used to support research in the application of advanced sensor technologies to the monitoring of the UK’s existing and future infrastructure, in order to protect and maintain it.

UKCRIC programmes will integrate research on infrastructure needs, utilisation and performance through experiments, analysis, living labs and modelling. This will provide a new combination of decision support tools to inform infrastructure operators, planners, financiers, regulators, cities, and government on the optimisation of infrastructure capacity, performance and investment.

This article originally appeared on the University of Cambridge website.

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