International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF)

The UK faces a huge challenge in renewing its ageing infrastructure in order to address the changing social, economic and environmental demands of the 21st century. The deficiencies of our traditional, fragmented, sectoral approach to infrastructure creation and management are becoming more apparent as poorly appreciated interdependencies make infrastructures vulnerable to service disruptions and cascade failures. These lead to capacity limitations, inefficiencies, poor reliability, low adaptability and missed opportunities, which are further exacerbated by poor data and information about interdependencies in and between sectors at the organisational, commercial and policy levels. The resulting disjointed approaches to governance and policy create perverse incentives and conflicting actions, which then stifle collaborative innovation.

ICIF, a consortium of six UK Universities and 22 non-academic partners lead by UCL responds to this need by creating a new way of bringing together the stakeholders involved in renewing the UK’s infrastructure to exploit structured, multidisciplinary, systemic thinking about infrastructure interdependencies when developing the novel business models (BM) needed to address future challenges. The Centre’s vision is to achieve a major improvement in commercialisation and policy-making.

The Centre will move beyond the current situation to use a systems-thinking approach to infrastructure behaviour, performance, risks, data, adaptability and uncertainties, integrated with strategic BM design, analysis and implementation, to generate better outcomes for all stakeholders. We will use an ICT-supported research process, co-produced with industrial and other partners, to improve the design, delivery, operation, and regulation of new infrastructure and the effectiveness of the BMs needed to exploit it.

The future success of the UK infrastructure sector now increasingly depends on successful collaboration between many actors, from end users to stakeholders, supply chains, owners, operators, financiers, regulators and the government. Currently these actors are often uncoordinated and lack a shared mental model of the fundamental purposes of infrastructure, its governance and operation, and how innovation and entrepreneurship add value. Significant commercial opportunities therefore exist for firms that can improve their learning by broadening the scope of their strategic analysis and speeding up experimental cycles using better research and cheaper, faster, off-line methods. The Centre will radically change how this off-line learning takes place: it will provide a neutral space where creation and analysis of new BMs can take place in a co-produced multi-stakeholder research setting.

Posted in May, 2013