A £21 million award has been made to the University of Birmingham as part of a capital investment by BIS to the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), to build a National Buried Infrastructure Facility (NBIF).

The NBIF will enable scientists to test a variety of buried infrastructure systems at, or near to, full-scale to help them understand their physical and operational performance. This includes, for example, pipelines and cables, culverts and tunnels, road foundations and barrier wall systems.

Cost-effective maintenance

This knowledge will provide the scientific evidence base to inform decisions on innovative engineering of new infrastructure systems, cost-effective maintenance and adaptation of existing infrastructures, and building in resilience to cities’ infrastructure systems in the face of increasing demands and the extreme events that are expected as the climate changes.

The University of Birmingham leads research into ‘foresighting’ for cities, using a range of methods based on future scenarios. Understanding how people might live, work and play in cities in the future is important for civil engineers, who need to create an appropriate built environment that will facilitate this activity.

Innovative infrastructure

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: 'From traffic congestion and floods to rising populations, our cities face big challenges that need innovative infrastructure solutions to keep services secure, low-cost, and effective. That’s why, as a One Nation Government, we are investing in this world-leading UK research network to develop new materials and engineering solutions that will deliver world-class infrastructure up and down the country.'

Professor Chris Rogers, Director of the new National Buried Infrastructure Facility, from the University of Birmingham’s School of Engineering, said, ‘The ground, which supports our physical infrastructure systems, is a resource capable of delivering multiple potential functions, both now and in the future. However this potential is rarely realised in the way we currently engineer our cities – we typically engineer with one function in mind, whether it is to provide strength or stiffness, enabling water to flow into drains, or stopping water flow across barriers, for example.’