UK Government announces £138m funding for major collaborative research

3 December 2015

Edited Andrew McCarter

UCL is hosting the Coordination Node for the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) which has secured £138 million of funding, to be match funded from other sources, as part of the UK Government’s spending review.

UKCRIC is a collaboration of fourteen 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.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:  “From traffic congestion and floods to rising populations, our cities face big challenges that need innovative infrastructure solutions to keep services secure, low-cost, and effective. That’s why, as a One Nation Government, we are investing £138 million in this world-leading UK research network to develop new materials and engineering solutions that will deliver world-class infrastructure up and down the country.”

The UCL team will coordinate partnerships between top players across industry, academia and government in an unprecedented bid to align knowledge producers and the needs of the UK. EPSRC has provided seed funding for the Coordination Node in anticipation of further developments.

The coordinating node of UKCRIC is headed by Professor Brian Collins (UCL Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy), who said: “UKCRIC is more than just another research project. It is the first step to creating long term partnerships between the people who build our infrastructure, the people who use it, the people who regulate and fund it, the people who own and operate it, and those of us who study how it works and is used. This kind of partnership is vital if we are to have infrastructure that continues to support the well being of the UK economy, environment, and people.”

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. Already discussions are well advanced with University of Edinburgh, which is facilitating an expansion of UKCRIC to the university network in Scotland in the next phase of development.

Professor Colin Bailey, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester said: “UKCRIC is the first step in synthesising research, innovation, planning, design and construction to support the UK’s need to create a resilient cost-effective infrastructure that will support economic growth and social well-being. The initial partners will bring together world-leading expertise in materials, mechanics, data handling, sensor technology and social and environmental sciences, underpinning the research and development needed to drive forward the UK’s overall infrastructure strategy.”

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. Unconventionally UKCRIC includes practitioners as participants in the research team as co-producers of the research, and in the conversation and the operation of infrastructures that will result. The integration of so many sectors and disciplines signals a paradigm shift to the way in which vital research is carried out.

The Government also announced in the spending review that science funding of £4.7 billion will be protected in real terms over the Parliament.

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