EPSRC Impact Acceleration Awards supports UK infrastructure planning


National infrastructure systems (energy, transport, water, waste water and solid waste) form the basis of societies’ economic and social wellbeing, requiring significant human and capital investments. Building infrastructure is a long-term commitment that is difficult to reverse and thus has major implications for sustainability, mitigation of carbon emissions and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Researchers at the University of Oxford have been working closely with UK government bodies to use models to help inform the government’s investment decisions.

In 2015 the ITRC’s Principal Investigator, Professor Jim Hall, used an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) award to support the application of the NISMOD-LP model to the analysis of proposed government investments.

The IAA enabled the ITRC’s research and expertise to be brought directly into infrastructure planning concerns that were relevant to the UK’s HM Treasury. NISMOD-LP achieved a completely new level of insight previously unavailable to HM Treasury, enabling an analysis of the government’s infrastructure ‘pipeline’ – planned investment in infrastructure – against a set of future scenarios run across all infrastructure sectors; something that was not possible with standalone departmental models. The secondment produced outputs that provided evidence to officials and ministers regarding the robustness of the current infrastructure pipeline to the future uncertainties of socio-economic and climatic change.

Following the success of this collaboration, a second EPSRC IAA-funded secondment commenced in late 2017, this time with the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), the body now responsible for advising the government on infrastructure policy and strategy. Thanks to this funding, one of the ITRC team, Dr Matthew Ives, is working with the NIC on their Interim National Infrastructure Assessment for the UK which features extensive analysis of future demands for infrastructure services based on the modelling outputs of ITRC’s NISMOD-LP tool. This collaboration will continue until the release of the NIC’s Full National Infrastructure Assessment later in 2018.

This case study has been produced by the Communications Team at the University of Oxford’s Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division, as part of their evaluation of the EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account. Reproduced with permission from MPLS.