The final Budget of the current government, delivered on 19 March by Chancellor George Osborne, included an announcement that the UCL-led project – the UK Collaboration for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) – secured up to £138 million of funding subject to a satisfactory business case and the provision of substantial co-funding.
The proposed research stems from a need for UK national and local infrastructure (such as transport, water, waste, energy and ICT systems) to be fit for purpose for supporting societal development in a changing world. Brian Collins, Professor of Engineering Policy at UCL STEaPP, played a central role in convening the initial 13 partners, representing the major university-based infrastructure, civil and construction engineering research groups in the UK.
Professor Collins states: “Understanding how to invest in, build, operate and maintain resilient and adaptable high quality infrastructure based services, such as good public health, safe and accessible mobility, heating and lighting and sustainable economic activity all in a low carbon context are vital to the well being of citizens in developed countries and to the development of the rest of the world. UKCRIC will provide the science and research base for delivering that understanding for the UK and for international partners.”
UKCRIC will integrate knowledge, tools and methods from a wide range of disciplines. Its initial case proposes four strands:
(A) Investment in capital equipment and facilities (national ‘Laboratories’) that underpin transformative research for all partners and stakeholders
(B) A national ‘Observatory’ and living laboratories that will establish a network of linked infrastructure ‘observatories’ to test current and proposed urban infrastructure systems, and to enable rapid trialling of solutions
(C) A multi-level modelling and simulation environment that allows ‘what if’ experiments to be carried out in a high performance computing environment
(D) Creation of a Coordination Node (CN) to integrate activities and industry collaboration across UKCRIC, located at UCL
Once a business case for UKCRIC has been agreed, the Collaboration will hear further details on funding allocation and capital investments. UCL can expect to benefit substantially from investments in strands B and C, and will lead the Coordination Node.
UKCRIC it is a natural extension and expansion of existing infrastructure research and programme grants involving UCL, including the International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF), and Liveable Cities.
The Budget made clear that science is core to the Government’s plan for growth and UCL’s role in developing world-class science infrastructures will build on our leading research base to give maximum impact for science, the economy and society.