Future infrastructure demand: NISMOD at heart of policy assessment

National Infrastructure Commission

Today (13 October 2017) the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) launched its interim National Infrastructure Assessment, which sets out its vision and priorities for meeting the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs. The NIC is the government’s independent body providing advice and analysis on the UK’s infrastructure.

We’re pleased to have been closely involved in the development of this report over the past year, with ITRC-MISTRAL playing a crucial role in understanding the scope of future options for our infrastructure. Our contribution is discussed in full in an annex to the report: Congestion, capacity, carbon: priorities for national infrastructure Modelling annex (pdf, 2.2 MB).

It’s been particularly good to see ITRC’S early ambitions – for a new generation of simulation models to inform future infrastructure planning and delivery – now realised as a practical application used by national policy-makers.

With colleagues at NIC, we applied NISMOD (ITRC’s National Infrastructure System Model) alongside established model simulations already used by government departments. By using a portfolio of models, decision-makers can have a better understanding: of uncertainties within different model structures; of the range of likely outcomes for different future scenarios; and of the robustness of the evidence they are using to develop infrastructure policy.

Critically, we were also able to provide a totally new level of analysis enabling NIC to run the same set of future scenarios across all infrastructure sectors – something that wasn’t possible with the standalone departmental models.

From the ITRC-MISTRAL perspective, working closely with this key stakeholder was an opportunity to thoroughly verify and validate our model and to better understand the key drivers of infrastructure demand. It was particularly important for us to be able to start this collaboration at an early stage, allowing refinements that ensure NISMOD is better able to meet the NIC’s needs.

We are grateful to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for having the vision to support this pioneering research and the extended collaboration with the NIC.

For the next phase of work, the NIC will use NISMOD to develop recommendations for infrastructure provision that will be fit-for-purpose under a range of futures. This will inform the full National Infrastructure Assessment due in 2018.

Looking ahead, ITRC-MISTRAL will be working with the new Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI), which was launched earlier this year.  DAFNI will provide enhanced computing capability for NISMOD, enabling it to be a better, faster, more capable resource for our stakeholders.

There are exciting times ahead for all of us at ITRC-MISTRAL.