The University of Southampton

Achieving a better future for UK infrastructure

Published: 17 May 2010

A new project which will help shape the UK's energy and transport infrastructure over the next 30 to 50 years will focus closely on resilience and cross-sector interactions in structural planning.

Resilient Futures is a multi-centre project which will consider the shape and planning of future developments in the UK's energy and transport infrastructure - in particular the resilience of these systems to malicious as well as environmental and systemic threats and hazards. The £1.75M project features in the BBC Radio 4 programme “Dragon’s Lab” on innovative research (Wednesday 19 May 2010).

Dr Seth Bullock, Head of the Science and Engineering of Natural Systems Group at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science, and a Director of the University’s Institute for Complex Systems Simulation (ICSS), will lead a team of academics spread over six institutions, with a further 18 project partners drawn from industry, the public sector, and the emergency services.

Resilient Futures was developed following reports from the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Council for Science and Technology, and the Cabinet Office, all of which stated that sustaining resilience is the key challenge facing the UK's critical infrastructure. The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Over a three-year period Resilient Futures will engage directly with relevant stakeholders from the public and private sectors to focus on future rather than current UK infrastructure. The researchers are looking for a paradigm shift in resilience thinking – moving away from a short-term and protectionist approach in which agencies seek to preserve their own assets, to one which acknowledges the complex interdependencies in a constantly evolving system.

The UK’s energy and transport infrastructure is a major area of study for the Institute for Complex Systems Simulation. PhD students are already using the University of Southampton's supercomputer, one of the fastest in the world, to model this important part of the UK economic structure in support of their research.

"This focus on the future is crucial if we are to ensure that our efforts towards achieving resilience now do not compromise future resilience," said Dr Bullock. "We want to see a paradigm shift in resilience thinking - from a fragmented short-termism based on defending current practices to a longer-term, interdependent perspective.”

The Dragons’ Lab programme is a repeat and can be listened to at:

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

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