UKCRIC to deliver world-leading research on cities and infrastructure

Supplementary content information

State-of-the-art new facilities to upgrade the nation's infrastructure will be created at 11 universities as part of the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC). UKCRIC will be established at 14 universities to conduct world-leading research through a network of experimental facilities and urban laboratories.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has supported the establishment of UKCRIC with an investment of £125 million, and in total more than £216.6 million is being invested in the new facilities by EPSRC and partner organisations. Government support for UKCRIC was first announced in the 2015 Budget.

With inadequate infrastructure estimated to cost the UK £2 million a day, UKCRIC will allow academia, industry, government and end users to collaborate to upgrade infrastructure and reduce its cost to the nation.

UKCRIC will lead to the development of new materials, techniques and novel technologies, as well as research into issues such as investment in rail systems, roads and flood and water management.

It will also facilitate the introduction of smart sensors and systems to generate data to optimise the use of assets and networks, while computation and big data infrastructure will be established for the modelling, simulation and visualisation of cities and infrastructure.

EPSRC's Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said: Upgrading the UK's infrastructure is a key priority and will help to deliver prosperity for the nation.

UKCRIC provides a unique opportunity for the universities to coordinate on best practice, share data and lessons learned, as well as providing a focus for industrial engagement. It will help to develop a commercial resource with a considerable export potential.

The research undertaken at these new facilities will help us to understand how we can make the nation's infrastructure more resilient to extreme events and more adaptable to changing circumstances, and how it can provide services that are more affordable, accessible and useable for the whole population.

Professor Brian Collins, Professor of Engineering Policy at UCL and convenor of the initial UKCRIC partners who represent the UK's major university-based infrastructure, civil and construction engineering research groups in the UK, said: Understanding how to invest in, build, operate and maintain resilient and adaptable high-quality infrastructure based services, such as good public health, safe mobility, heating, lighting and sustainable economic activity, is vital to the wellbeing of citizens in the UK and across the world.

UKCRIC will provide the science, engineering and research base for delivering that understanding in a low carbon context in UK industry and Government, and for international partners.

Summaries of the new facilities

Buried Infrastructure Lab (EP/P013635/1)

This soil-structure interaction laboratory will test fully-instrumented buried pipes, culverts and other structures at full-scale and larger, deeper structures such as shallow tunnels and barrier walls, at near full-scale. Research will also be conducted into air-flow in tunnels focusing on air pollution, pressure transients and sonic booms.

Led by: Professor Chris Rogers, University of Birmingham

EPSRC grant: £21,600,000

Total capital cost: £27,600,000

Linear Infrastructure Lab (EP/P013627/1)

A major new building will house double and single-height laboratories for the testing of large-scale structures, components and materials at a range of scales and under a range of environmental conditions and temperatures, with a major focus on transport infrastructure, particularly rail. The new building will also feature an advanced geomechanics laboratory with scaled and full-scale physical testing capabilities.

Led by: Professor David Richards, University of Southampton

EPSRC grant: £26,000,000

Total capital cost: £36,000,000

National Centre for Infrastructure Materials (EP/P017622/1, EP/P017169/1, EP/P017061/1)

Laboratories at three universities will be refurbished to form a networked facility for underpinning materials research: the Advanced Infrastructure Materials (AIM) Lab at Imperial College London will focus on producing, processing, imaging, analysing and testing infrastructure materials; the Facility for Infrastructure Materials Durability at the University of Leeds will host a field exposure site and facilities to study materials ageing from the nano- to the macro scale, plus facilities for infrastructure robotics and geo-energy; and the Fire and Impact Laboratory for Resilient Infrastructure Materials at the University of Manchester will feature critical loading and characterisation facilities to enable physical testing of infrastructure materials under realistic fire and impact loading conditions.

Led by: Professor Nick Buenfeld, Imperial College London; Dr Leon Black, University of Leeds; Professor Yong Wang, University of Manchester

EPSRC grant: £16,600,000

Total capital cost: £19,400,000

National Foundation-Structure Interaction Lab (EP/P01920X/1)

The laboratory will conduct experiments on large to full-scale examples of bridge supports, building foundations, retaining walls, embankments, and similar problems where earth interacts with structures. The unique facility will allow a wide range of static, vibration and earthquake-like loads to be applied. Modules will be transportable to other sites, allowing for in situ testing of actual structures. The facility will enable important industry problems to be answered that cannot be resolved by conventional, smaller sized experiments.

Led by: Professor Colin Taylor, University of Bristol

EPSRC grant: £9,600,000

Total capital cost: £12,200,000

National Research Facility for Infrastructure Sensing (EP/P013848/1)

Located in the Civil Engineering building at Cambridge's new Engineering campus, the Facility will focus on the development, testing and deployment of sensors for infrastructure. This interdisciplinary hub will work across a range of length scales, from nanoscale sensor development to multi-metre full-scale testing of large components.  A particular focus will be on the practical deployment of sensors in physical infrastructure, with the Facility housing a highly-skilled deployment team and providing training for industry and researchers.

Led by: Professor Simon Guest, University of Cambridge

EPSRC grant: £18,000,000

Total capital cost: £22,500,000

National Urban Water Infrastructure Facility (EP/P017460/1, EP/P016707/1, EP/P016863/1)

Existing laboratories will be extended to create the Urban Water Hub at Cranfield University, which will support research into urban water infrastructure and assets; the National Urban Water Laboratory, a dedicated experimental facility at the Science Central site in the heart of Newcastle-upon-Tyne will house urban transport, urban energy and urban ICT infrastructure facilities as well as the Newcastle Urban Observatory; and the Distributed Water Infrastructure Laboratory at the University of Sheffield will feature a containment chamber incorporating facilities to construct and test at full scale infrastructure such as water pipes and sewer pipes/chambers.

Led by: Professor Paul Jeffrey, Cranfield University; Professor Richard Dawson, Newcastle University; Professor Simon Tait, University of Sheffield

EPSRC grant: £20,700,000

Total capital cost: £81,400,000

Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) (EP/P018629/1)

This new facility will feature test rigs at 1:1 scale for the study of human interactions with infrastructure, such as tube trains, stations, airports, and urban environments in controlled conditions.

Led by: Professor Nick Tyler, UCL

EPSRC grant: £9,000,000

Total capital cost: £14,000,000 plus building costs

Notes for Editors:

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture.

We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Reference: PN 14-17

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