Building the UK’s future
The UK’s infrastructure will be more robust, cost-effective and sustainable in the future when a major inter-disciplinary Government-backed project involving the University of Leeds publishes its recommendations.
iBUILD (Infrastructure BUsiness models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery), which officially began on 1 August 2013, focuses on the networks of roads, energy, water, transport, waste and ICT that support all the services which have a direct effect on the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of our society.
Funded by a £3.5 million grant from EPSRC and ESRC, the four-year project has also received £1.8 million support from industry and government agencies. The consortium of three universities – Leeds, Newcastle and Birmingham – was awarded one of only two Infrastructure Business Models grants in the UK.
The Leeds iBUILD management team comprises Dr Andrew Brown, an economist from Leeds University Business School; Professor Phil Purnell, Director of the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure in the Faculty of Engineering and Dr Julia Steinberger of the Sustainability Research Institute in the Faculty of Environment, representing the diversity of Leeds expertise required for this societal challenge.
As cities, local authorities and local enterprise partnerships are given more powers to raise finance for infrastructure delivery, they need robust new business models to accelerate infrastructure-related economic growth locally, whilst meeting EU environmental targets. iBUILD’s recommendations will have a direct influence on Government policy decisions. The Leeds team is working collaboratively to exploit the wealth of expertise across the campus, ensuring that the UK’s ageing network of roads, pipes and sewers can be adapted and improved to meet the demands of the future.
“Policy makers need and want inter-disciplinary work that goes beyond traditional boundaries,” says Dr Brown. “Government now recognises that new economic approaches are needed to maintain existing infrastructure, building new facilities with public or private money when required, but also making the best of what already exists.”
“The UK’s infrastructure is currently segmented into electricity, gas, water and other resources,” says Dr Steinberger. “From an environmental perspective, we need integrated business models to transform our infrastructure for future sustainability, to become both resource-efficient and cost-effective.”
“Ironically new technologies such as broadband can increase demand on traditional infrastructure, so we must learn how to value them both properly – not just in terms of money, but from a social, environmental, engineering point of view,” continues Professor Purnell. “Local engagement will result in better-informed proposals, enabling local authorities to strike mutually-beneficial deals with the private sector – with results which are favourable to all.”