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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

An Innovation and Knowledge Centre funded by EPSRC and Innovate UK

Studying at Cambridge

The digital revolution is coming – the infrastructure industry could lead or follow. Which will it be?

last modified May 27, 2016 01:22 PM
Key points from CSIC's event, Smart Infrastructure and Construction – the Future? Royal Academy of Engineering, London, 15 March 2016

 CSIC RAEng industry event

Image: Delegates at the event

Background

The Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) hosted a timely industry event to foster discussion among key decision makers on the future of smart infrastructure and construction.

The aim of the event was to focus industry-wide attention on the current tipping point in the history and future of our infrastructure, discussing questions including: How do we use emerging technologies to achieve sustainability in construction and infrastructure? How do we unlock opportunity and address institutional and structural challenges? How to we develop a business case for the industry adoption of smart solutions? How can the UK lead the digital revolution in infrastructure?

Challenges identified

  • No single industry company or organisation ‘owns’ the whole of the problem –the very segmented nature of the industry results in split incentives, with the beneficiary of an investment often not being the organisation which pays for the new construction
  • We need a better understanding of what we are building so that our industry can be leaner and more efficient
  • Organisations struggle to understand how technology in infrastructure delivers value. There is a need to understand how the world looks to an infrastructure provider and then seek to provide solutions.
  • The culture and practice need to change – there is a reluctance to innovate in the infrastructure and construction sector in comparison to other engineering sectors
  • How can we ‘capitalise’ better our understanding of design? An attractive value proposition may provide a good incentive
  • Evidence is required in order to change. Need a high-profile piece of smart infrastructure to be delivered, with smart solutions at the heart of it, to demonstrate value. Then we can deal with the hardest challenge – procurement
  • At the point of procurement, the client is not asking for the smart case. This needs to change

Action needed

  • We need to find ways of calculating real whole-life cost of assets
  • Creating and extracting better information about our assets will lead us to smart infrastructure – where our physical and digital infrastructure assets are fully integrated for maximum value. There is great potential for industry growth in this area, but industry needs a common language and definition of smart infrastructure as a basis for dialogue
  • The emerging abundance of digital technology is inevitably leading to a digital revolution. Now is the time for a shift in our thinking as an industry
  • Innovation is available to drive the necessary change to modernise our infrastructure industry. But there is pressing need for collaboration and knowledge transfer at every level in order to succeed and, ultimately, secure the UK’s position as world-leader in smart infrastructure in the next five years
  • BIM is just the beginning; information management is the key; if we use BIM for asset management we will derive more value from our existing infrastructure assets
  • Procurement practice in the sector needs to be changed – currently there is focus on short term outputs rather than long term outcomes
  • Innovation should be accommodated in the procurement process.
  • The digital revolution is coming – the infrastructure industry could lead or follow. Which will it be?