Infrastructure research

The group has particular interest in:

  • Long term dynamic performance of advanced composite bridge decks
  • Structural vulnerability
  • Wind loading and nonlinear dynamic performance of flexible structures
  • Whole systems analysis of the Interdependence, vulnerability and resilience of network infrastructure.

Members of the group are also actively involved in the International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF). This is an interdisciplinary, practice-orientated research centre conducting fundamental research on infrastructure interdependency, policy, innovation, regulation, management and financing. 

Bristol is also part of bin, a new national infrastructure research community.

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The International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF) is an interdisciplinary, practice-orientated research centre conducting fundamental research on infrastructure interdependency, policy, innovation, regulation, management and financing. It was created to identify the combinations of actors, regulations and technologies that can provide for the effective planning, design, investment, construction, delivery and use of infrastructure services that underpin economic activity and improve citizens’ quality of life within modern societies.

ICIF brings together leading academics from six UK universities: University College London, Cranfield University and the universities of Bristol, Brighton, Sussex and Southampton. It aims to create a share 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. ICIF-related research at the University of Bristol has resulted in the development of several innovative tools for infrastructure engineering, governance and policy. This work has focused on interdependency, smart city governance, resilience, learning and performance measurement.

A framework has been developed, in collaboration with UCL, for the identification, planning and management of interdependencies within and between infrastructure systems. This aids in minimising the unwanted risks associated with such interdependencies, as well as optimising the efficiency and resilience opportunities they also present. This framework has been adopted into HM Treasury’s Green Book Guidance. This work has also resulted in a holistic taxonomy of the many different forms that infrastructure interdependency can take. The rapid development and integration of connected technologies presents a large number of opportunities and challenges for the planning, governance and operation of traditional infrastructure systems. Through interviews and case studies a number of governance lessons from the city-wide implementation of smart technologies around the UK have been identified. Infrastructure systems present multiple complex challenges relating to issues such as climate change, food security, water security, poverty, natural hazards, energy, communication, transport, urban living, health, education and old-age. Making successful interventions to address these challenges requires resilience.

A novel model of resilience is emerging from the work of the ICIF at the University of Bristol focusing on how to be resilient. This outlines the capabilities and resources necessary to successfully addressing anticipated and unanticipated events. Crucially, it also looks at how these capabilities and resources can be acquired. Whether planning, managing, operating or using infrastructure, we embark on a tacit process of learning. In the service of a particular purpose we must identify, acquire and structure the necessary knowledge. This is particularly important in the context of achieving successful resilience in the face of rapidly changing environments; following a natural disaster for example. The ICIF group at the University of Bristol has looked at the formalisation of these learning journeys in order to increase the speed and efficacy with which they take place. The increasingly connected nature of infrastructure, together with the changing social demands placed upon it, has presented the need for improved methods of performance monitoring. A process for developing outcome-oriented performance metrics for the whole infrastructure system has been developed in collaboration with the iBUILD project.

ICIF is jointly funded by both the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant reference: EP/K012347/1).

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