National Linear Infrastructure Laboratory - University of Southampton

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment


There is an urgent need, and a transformative opportunity, to develop and exploit major advances in scientific understanding (including in the social and environmental sciences), multidisciplinary systems thinking, technological innovation and engineering, and manufacturing methods to adapt and augment the national economic infrastructure in a way that safeguards and enhances its multiple benefits with regard to economic growth, extreme event resilience, social wellbeing, environmental sustainability and export potential. A further research challenge is to understand how all aspects of infrastructure symbiotically serve the evolving needs and ambitions of nations and cities within the UK and elsewhere.

Intervention by way of targeted investment in capital equipment in key universities will enable world-leading research that creates and provides evidence for new paradigms in infrastructure over the next 50 years, reducing the cost of ownership of current and future infrastructure assets. As a result, significant direct & indirect societal and economic benefits will accrue to UK cities and to the country at large, and international commercial opportunities will be created for UK companies.

UKCRIC will address the above shortcomings in a focussed and evidenced-based way, leveraging existing investments in facilities and people to best effect. It will scale up existing research programmes to address near term issues such as investment in rail systems, roads, and flood and water management; and employ smart sensors and systems to generate open and big data for optimising the use of assets and investments. In the longer term, UKCRIC will develop new materials, new techniques and novel technologies. At the highest level, it will understand how to make the system of systems that constitutes the nation's infrastructure more resilient to extreme events and more adaptable to changing circumstances and contexts, and how it can provide services that are more affordable, accessible and useable to the whole population.

UKCRIC will:
i. Build on existing capabilities to establish a network of state-of-the-art large-scale experimental facilities supporting world-leading research in cities and infrastructure;
ii. Establish a unique, national network of local 'urban laboratories' to sense, capture, monitor & evaluate new and existing infrastructure in UK towns and cities;
iii. Establish world-leading computation and big data infrastructure for the modelling, simulation, and visualisation of cities and infrastructure;
iv. Coordinate UK research in cities and infrastructure nationally, promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing between disciplines and across sectors;
v. Amplify and grow existing activity to provide a focus for industrial engagement, knowledge sharing and technology transfer in cities and infrastructure research;
vi. Provide a focus for policy engagement at local, regional and national levels;
vii. Act as a focal point for cities and infrastructure research worldwide, maintaining and extending the UK's knowledge and innovation leadership in the design, planning, delivery, management, and operation of cities and infrastructure.

As a result of these activities, UKCRIC will:
1 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;
2 Develop innovative solutions, including digital solutions, to infrastructure problems that reduce the cost of ownership of infrastructure and enhance the value of derived services;
3 Radically improve the resilience of infrastructure systems and services against extreme events;
4 Grow and maintain the capacity and capability of infrastructure professionals so as to enhance domestic and global commercial market opportunities.

National [Linear] Infrastructure Laboratory at University of Southampton is part of UKCRIC.

Planned Impact

To ensure that the £466B remaining in the National Infrastructure Pipeline is invested wisely, the UKCRIC case has been successfully made for a targeted and coordinated uplift in research capability supported by national investment in world-class national infrastructure research capability. The UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities (UKCRIC) will provide leadership and support for the development and growth of a coordinated and coherent, world class, UK-based national infrastructure research community, spanning at least 13 universities in the first instance. It will engage 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. Through central coordination, providing a focal point for knowledge transfer, UKCRIC will support a step-change in the nation's approach to infrastructure investment. It will also develop a commercial resource that has considerable export potential for an international market that is valued at least $57 trillion in the period up to 2030.

Through collaborative postdoctoral training (Masters, PhD, EngD), research projects, and CPD courses, UKCRIC will train the next generation of research, knowledge and innovation leaders, in cities and infrastructure, across the academic, industry and policy sectors. For example, it is expected that more than 2,000 students and postdoctoral researchers will be trained on UKCRIC's facilities within the first 5 years.


10 25 50