ITRC Webinar – Model before you build, build, build: systems analysis of the future of national infrastructure

Jan 11, 2021

Introducing and celebrating ITRC’s lasting legacy

On 29 September 2020, Director of ITRC, Jim Hall, chaired an inspiring webinar with speakers James Richardson, Chief Economist of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and Mark Enzer, Chief Technical Officer of Mott McDonald and Head of the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s National Digital Twin programme, plus contributions from ITRC researchers. The first in a series of webinars showcasing ITRC’s work, it encompassed ITRC’s wide legacy of products, outputs, impacts and uptakes, as the programme comes to an end. The aim of the webinar was to encourage further involvement in follow-on research activities, as well as to celebrate the ITRC’s great work over the last 10 years.

ITRC have produced 260 publications and have benefited hugely from its 73 members of staff and PhD students – a rich cohort trained in ITRC’s pioneering approach to systems analysis, now taking it forwards in different ways with their ongoing careers. Because, as Jim noted, ‘Good research never ends’ – many other hugely important research initiatives are already underway as a result of ITRC’s trailblazing stimulus.

The team screened a short video giving a flavour of the ITRC’s achievements to date, all of which were developed further by a brief presentation from Jim.
In Britain, ITRC’s analysis has provided evidence to help shape the NIC’s National Infrastructure Assessment – one of the most comprehensive long-term studies in the world. It also provided the world-leading Risk and Resilience Model that enabled NIC to pinpoint vulnerabilities in Britain’s infrastructure networks.
Their advanced NISMOD methodology has also been exported – so far to Argentina, Tanzania, Vietnam, China, New Zealand. Together with UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services), ITRC have developed and used tools for evidence-based decision making about infrastructure development in developing countries, particularly those prone to natural and other disasters such as Curaçao, Ghana and St Lucia.

At a local, granular level, NISMOD is developing plans and possibilities for the Oxford–Cambridge Arc. And at the other end of scale, ITRC have developed models for global network analysis – working with the World Bank on the first global analysis of transport and 5G network infrastructure.
James Richardson presented the NIC’s current priorities – levelling up in terms of regional disparities; Net Zero and broader environmental issues; recovering from the current Covid crisis and the role of infrastructure in supporting long-term economic growth. He noted, ‘The kind of work that Jim and the team have been doing on infrastructure is central to developing an impartial evidence base and the ability to take better decisions in the future.’

Mark Enzer then spoke of the development of the National Digital Twin – an ecosystem of connected digital twins enabled by an information management framework, which will improve decision making in all processes across economic, social and natural infrastructure. He said, ‘The contribution of ITRC to systems thinking in the built environment is of massive importance and something that we absolutely have to build on for the National Digital Twin.’

All in all, this feels less of an ending than a beginning, as the future is now with ongoing collaborations with the Data & Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI), the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) , the Alan Turing Institute and many more pioneering institutions. Combining NISMOD with DAFNI’s computer computing power means that ground-breaking decision making is continuing apace. Watch this space for more in-depth webinars on all aspects of ITRC’s legacy work.

Watch the webinar on catch up, below:


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