The UK’s Infrastructure Innovation Landscape

The recent announcement of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) ‘smart tunnel’ installed with cutting edge sensing technologies, has highlighted the advancements of innovation across the UK infrastructure and construction research landscape.

The ambitious targets set by the Construction Strategy 2025, to improve the construction industry and deliver infrastructure faster, at lower cost, and with lower emissions, aim to ensure strong and sustainable economic growth in the construction sector, but equally present major challenges in meeting these objectives. To overcome the major challenges in achieving these targets a wide landscape of collaborative research and cutting edge technology has emerged in infrastructure construction and maintenance, and provides the UK with the opportunity to lead the world in infrastructure and construction R&D. CIRIA’s recent Infrastructure signposts provides a new service to collate this expertise in one place.

News of the completion of the world’s first ‘smart tunnel’ from the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) at the University of Cambridge, has brought new opportunities for the monitoring and management of London’s aging infrastructure asset network. Using low-cost and high tech sensors, an abandoned Royal Mail tunnel, 25 metres below London has been transformed into the world’s first smart tunnel, providing engineers with new methods of monitoring and maintaining existing infrastructure, an ongoing challenge for UK infrastructure, much of which has been continuously added to and developed since the Victorian era. The Royal Mail tunnel used for this project is located below Liverpool Street Station and only a few metres above the excavation of one of Crossrail’s new stations, allowing real time monitoring of the impact of the Crossrail excavation and construction on neighbouring existing infrastructure and structures.

You can find further information on the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) website.

The challenges of using and managing asset data for existing infrastructure networks with disparate and legacy systems has been raised by CIRIA and the National Infrastructure Client Leadership Group, in particular at the March 2014 event ‘Smart construction & intelligent infrastructure’.

While a range of innovative solutions are being developed across sectors and in parallel to major projects, the difficulties of managing the complex information of combined new and legacy assets and information will continue to be a growing challenge in our sector. CIRIA recently launched a proposal for a working group to address the topic, Infrastructure data – signposting of good practice in capture, management and analysis (P2952) which is intended to engage and facilitate cross sectorial conversation around this issue.

CIRIA's seminar and exhibition, Innovators of tomorrow’s infrastructure, will bring together key industry figures to discuss innovation in the UK infrastructure sector, embedding innovation through the supply chain, highlight the many and varied projects and advancements which are undergoing in line with the development of major infrastructure projects such as HS2 and Crossrail and facilitate discussion across sectors and between major projects.

Alongside Terry Hill CBE, ARUP, who is providing a keynote speech on the significant opportunities which exist to leverage existing UK research and innovation capability to share learning and collaborate with European partners via EU “Horizon 2020” funding, presentations from Dale Evans, @OneAlliance; Simon Newton, London Underground; Sam El-Jouzi, CH2M Hill; and Ross Agnew, Director of Technology, Costain, will highlight the collaboration and embedding of innovation in the supply chain using core strategies, developing an integrated supply chain and encouraging knowledge sharing including best practice and early engagement with Tier 2 & 3 contractors.

With an ever growing landscape of research in infrastructure and related construction, CIRIA is building resources and signposting, taking events and projects forward to facilitate discussion and collaboration, working to highlight innovation and expertise in UK infrastructure construction.

For more information on our growing Civil Infrastructure initiative and to get involved, visit