12 Projects, page 1 of 3
Challenging the lock-in of the current centralised UK energy system is essential to delivering the deep carbon cuts required over the period to 2050 to moderate climate change. Decentralised energy initiatives are currently being promoted, increasingly within the urban locations where the majority of the population and economic activity is located. Such decentralisation of energy infrastructure and associated decarbonisation initiatives would considerably change the nature of urban environments to 2050. But, to date, the research emphasis has been on identifying and transferring best practice from project to project without consideration of the limits to decentralisation, the implications for interconnected energy systems and the overall impact on urban areas. There is an urgent need to understand the implications of these decentralisation initiatives from the point of view of energy systems at different scales - urban, regional and national - and in terms of the overall sustainability of future change within urban areas. This involves considering how far such decentralisation could be pursued and what the carbon and other impacts would be. This project, therefore, takes a much-needed critical look at the scope for challenging lock-in through urban energy initiatives. Such energy initiatives are understood to include a combination of decentralised technologies for energy generation with strategies for energy and carbon reduction operating at different scales within urban areas. It will examine the range and types of urban energy systems that could be put in place from an international review and it will consider the issues raised by the need for such initiatives within the UK to integrate with energy systems at urban, regional and national scales in order to deliver energy and carbon reductions effectively. This will be explored through UK implementation studies and examination of innovative initiatives as yet untried in the UK context. The context will be scenario development to 2050 based on existing Foresight scenarios on energy management and the built environment. The project will then undertake a scaling-up exercise to consider the potential contribution to national carbon reduction of aggregating up individual urban energy initiatives. This will involve analysis of the extent to which such initiatives could be rolled out across the country and their carbon impact, given different mixes of energy technologies and carbon reduction strategies. The scaling up exercise will also consider the implications for future urban change using the developed 2050 scenarios. The result will be a critical assessment of future change in urban areas as a result of energy decentralisation and, therefore, the potential contribution of energy inititives within urban areas to carbon reductions at a national scale and urban sustainability to 2050.
The UK water sector is experiencing a period of profound change with both public and private sector actors seeking evidence-based responses to a host of emerging global, regional and national challenges which are driven by demographic, climatic, and land use changes as well as regulatory pressures for more efficient delivery of services. Although the UK Water Industry is keen to embrace the challenge and well placed to innovate, it lacks the financial resources to support longer term skills and knowledge generation. A new cadre of engineers is required for the water industry to not only make our society more sustainable and profitable but to develop a new suite of goods and services for a rapidly urbanising world. EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training provide an ideal mechanism with which to remediate the emerging shortfall in advanced engineering skills within the sector. In particular, the training of next-generation engineering leaders for the sector requires a subtle balance between industrial and academic contributions; calling for a funding mechanism which privileges industrial need but provides for significant academic inputs to training and research. The STREAM initiative draws together five of the UK's leading water research and training groups to secure the future supply of advanced engineering professionals in this area of vital importance to the UK. Led by the Centre for Water Science at Cranfield University, the consortium also draws on expertise from the Universities of Sheffield and Bradford, Imperial College London, Newcastle University, and the University of Exeter. STREAM offers Engineering Doctorate and PhD awards through a programme which incorporates; (i) acquisition of advanced technical skills through attendance at masters level training courses, (ii) tuition in the competencies and abilities expected of senior engineers, and (iii) doctoral level research projects. Our EngD students spend at least 75% of their time working in industry or on industry specified research problems. Example research topics to be addressed by the scheme's students include; delivering drinking water quality and protecting public health; reducing carbon footprint; reducing water demand; improving service resilience and reliability; protecting natural water bodies; reducing sewer flooding, developing and implementing strategies for Integrated Water Management, and delivering new approaches to characterising, communicating and mitigating risk and uncertainty. Fifteen studentships per year for five years will be offered with each position being sponsored by an industrial partner from the water sector. A series of common attendance events will underpin programme and group identity. These include, (i) an initial three-month taught programme based at Cranfield University, (ii) an open invitation STREAM symposium and (iii) a Challenge Week to take place each summer including transferrable skills training and guest lectures from leading industrialists and scientists. Outreach activities will extend participation in the programme, pursue collaboration with associated initiatives, promote 'brand awareness' of the EngD qualification, and engage with a wide range of stakeholder groups (including the public) to promote engagement with and understanding of STREAM activities. Strategic direction for the programme will be formulated through an Industry Advisory Board comprising representatives from professional bodies, employers, and regulators. This body will provide strategic guidance informed by sector needs, review the operational aspects of the taught and research components as a quality control, and conduct foresight studies of relevant research areas. A small International Steering Committee will ensure global relevance for the programme. The total cost of the STREAM programme is £9m, £2.8m of which is being invested by industry and £1.8m by the five collaborating universities. Just under £4.4m is being requested from EPSRC
What will the UK's critical infrastructure look like in 2030? In 2050? How resilient will it be? Decisions taken now by policy makers, NGOs, industrialists, and user communities will influence the answers to these questions. How can this decision making be best informed by considerations of infrastructural resilience? This project will consider future developments in the UK's energy and transport infrastructure and the resilience of these systems to natural and malicious threats and hazards, delivering a) fresh perspectives on how the inter-relations amongst our critical infrastructure sectors impact on current and future UK resilience, b) a state-of-the-art integrated social science/engineering methodology that can be generalised to address different sectors and scenarios, and c) an interactive demonstrator simulation that operationalises the otherwise nebulous concept of resilience for a wide range of decision makers and stakeholders.Current reports from the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Council for Science and Technology, and the Cabinet Office are united in their assessment that achieving and sustaining resilience is the key challenge facing the UK's critical infrastructure. They are also unanimous in their assessment of the main issues. First, there is agreement on the main threats to national infrastructure: i) climate change; ii) terrorist attacks; iii) systemic failure. Second, the complex, disparate and interconnected nature of the UK's infrastructure systems is highlighted as a key concern by all. Our critical infrastructure is highly fragmented both in terms of its governance and in terms of the number of agencies charged with achieving and maintaining resilience, which range from national government to local services and even community groups such as local resilience forums. Moreover, the cross-sector interactions amongst different technological systems within the national critical infrastructure are not well understood, with key inter-dependencies potentially overlooked. Initiatives such as the Cabinet Office's new Natural Hazards Team are working to address this. The establishment of such bodies with responsibility for oversight and improving joined up resilience is a key recommendation in all four reports. However, such bodies currently lack two critical resources: (1) a full understanding of the resilience implications of our current and future infrastructural organisation; and (2) vehicles for effectively conveying this understanding to the full range of relevant stakeholders for whom the term resilience is currently difficult to understand in anything other than an abstract sense. The Resilient Futures project will engage directly with this context by working with relevant stakeholders from many sectors and governance levels to achieve a step change in both (1) and (2). To achieve this, we will focus on future rather than present UK infrastructure. This is for a two reasons. First, we intend to engender a paradigm shift in resilience thinking - from a fragmented short-termism that encourages agencies to focus on protecting their own current assets from presently perceived threats to a longer-term inter-dependent perspective recognising that the nature of both disruptive events and the systems that are disrupted is constantly evolving and that our efforts towards achieving resilience now must not compromise our future resilience. Second, focussing on a 2030/2050 time-frame lifts discussion out of the politically charged here and now to a context in which there is more room for discussion, learning and organisational change. A focus on *current resilience* must overcome a natural tendency for the agencies involved to defend their current processes and practices, explain their past record of disruption management, etc., before the conversation can move to engaging with potential for improvement, learning and change.
Compared to many parts of the world, the UK has under-invested in its infrastructure in recent decades. It now faces many challenges in upgrading its infrastructure so that it is appropriate for the social, economic and environmental challenges it will face in the remainder of the 21st century. A key challenge involves taking into account the ways in which infrastructure systems in one sector increasingly rely on other infrastructure systems in other sectors in order to operate. These interdependencies mean failures in one system can cause follow-on failures in other systems. For example, failures in the water system might knock out electricity supplies, which disrupt communications, and therefore transportation, which prevent engineers getting to the original problem in the water infrastructure. These problems now generate major economic and social costs. Unfortunately they are difficult to manage because the UK infrastructure system has historically been built, and is currently operated and managed, around individual infrastructure sectors. Because many privatised utilities have focused on operating infrastructure assets, they have limited experience in producing new ones or of understanding these interdependencies. Many of the old national R&D laboratories have been shut down and there is a lack of capability in the UK to procure and deliver the modern infrastructure the UK requires. On the one hand, this makes innovation risky. On the other hand, it creates significant commercial opportunities for firms that can improve their understanding of infrastructure interdependencies and speed up how they develop and test their new business models. This learning is difficult because infrastructure innovation is undertaken in complex networks of firms, rather than in an individual firm, and typically has to address a wide range of stakeholders, regulators, customers, users and suppliers. Currently, the UK lacks a shared learning environment where these different actors can come together and explore the strengths and weaknesses of different options. This makes innovation more difficult and costly, as firms are forced to 'learn by doing' and find it difficult to anticipate technical, economic, legal and societal constraints on their activity before they embark on costly development projects. The Centre will create a shared, facilitated learning environment in which social scientists, engineers, industrialists, policy makers and other stakeholders can research and learn together to understand how better to exploit the technical and market opportunities that emerge from the increased interdependence of infrastructure systems. The Centre will focus on the development and implementation of innovative business models and aims to support UK firms wishing to exploit them in international markets. The Centre will undertake a wide range of research activities on infrastructure interdependencies with users, which will allow problems to be discovered and addressed earlier and at lower cost. Because infrastructure innovations alter the social distribution of risks and rewards, the public needs to be involved in decision making to ensure business models and forms of regulation are socially robust. As a consequence, the Centre has a major focus on using its research to catalyse a broader national debate about the future of the UK's infrastructure, and how it might contribute towards a more sustainable, economically vibrant, and fair society. Beneficiaries from the Centre's activities include existing utility businesses, entrepreneurs wishing to enter the infrastructure sector, regulators, government and, perhaps most importantly, our communities who will benefit from more efficient and less vulnerable infrastructure based services.
Our national infrastructure - the systems of infrastructure networks (e.g. energy, water, transport, waste, ICT) that support services such as healthcare, education, emergency response and thereby ensure our social, economic and environmental wellbeing - faces a multitude of challenges. A growing population, modern economy and proliferation of new technologies have placed increased and new demands on infrastructure services and made infrastructure networks increasingly inter-connected. Meanwhile, investment has not kept up with the pace of change leaving many components at the end of their life. Moreover, global environmental change necessitates reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved resilience to extreme events, implying major reconfigurations of these infrastructure systems. Addressing these challenges is further complicated by fragmented, often reactive, regulation and governance arrangements. Existing business models are considered by the Treasury Select Committee to provide poor value but few proven alternative models exist for mobilising finance, particularly in the current economic climate. Continued delivery of our civil infrastructure, particularly given current financial constraints, will require innovative and integrated thinking across engineering, economic and social sciences. If the process of addressing these issues is to take place efficiently, whilst also minimising associated risks, it will need to be underpinned by an appropriate multi-disciplinary approach that brings together engineering, economic and social science expertise to understand infrastructure financing, valuation and interdependencies under a range of possible futures. The evidence that must form the basis for such a strategic approach does not yet exist. However, evidence alone will be insufficient, so we therefore propose to establish a Centre of excellence, i-BUILD, that will bring together three UK universities with world-leading track records in engineering, economics and social sciences; a portfolio of pioneering inter-disciplinary research; and the research vision and capacity to deliver a multi-disciplinary analysis of innovative business models around infrastructure interdependencies. While national scale plans, projects and procedures set the wider agenda, it is at the scale of neighbourhoods, towns and cities that infrastructure is most dense and interdependencies between infrastructures, economies and society are most profound - this is where our bid is focussed. Balancing growth across regions and scales is crucial to the success of the national economy. Moreover, the localism agenda is encouraging local agents to develop new infrastructure related business but these are limited by the lack of robust new business models with which to do so at the local and urban scale. These new business models can only arise from a step change in the cost-benefit ratio for infrastructure delivery which we will achieve by: (i) reducing the costs of infrastructure delivery by understanding interdependencies and alternative finance models, (ii) improving valuation of infrastructure benefits by identifying and exploiting the social, environmental and economic opportunities, and, (iii) reconciling national and local priorities. The i-BUILD centre will deliver these advances through development of a new generation of value analysis tools, interdependency models and multi-scale implementation plans. These methods will be tested on integrative case studies that are co-created with an extensive stakeholder group, to provide demonstrations of new methods that will enable a revolution in the business of infrastructure delivery in the UK. Funding for a Centre provides the opportunity to work flexibly with partners in industry, local and national government to address a research challenge of national and international importance, whilst becoming an international landmark programme recognised for novelty, research excellence and impact.