Current and recent research projects include:
From Citizen to Co-innovator, from City Council to Facilitator: Integrating Urban Systems to Provide Better Outcomes for People (Co-Investigator). Funded by EPSRC. Project value around £400k. May 2016-October 2017. Jointly with University of Aston and City University Birmingham.
SMArt CitIES Network for Sustainable Urban Futures (SMARTIES Net) (UoB PI). Funded by ESRC. Project value around £100k. May 2016-April 2017. Led by University of Nottingham, involving a number of other UK universities and Indian partners.
i-BUILD: Infrastructure BUsiness models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery (Co-Investigator). Funded through EPSRC/ESRC. Project value: £3,567,862. Jointly with Universities of Leeds and Newcastle. August 2013 – July 2017.
Our national infrastructure - the systems of infrastructure networks (e.g. energy, water, transport, waste, ICT) that support services such as healthcare, education, emergency response and thereby ensure our social, economic and environmental wellbeing - faces a multitude of challenges. A growing population, modern economy and proliferation of new technologies have placed increased and new demands on infrastructure services and made infrastructure networks increasingly inter-connected. Meanwhile, investment has not kept up with the pace of change leaving many components at the end of their life. Moreover, global environmental change necessitates reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved resilience to extreme events, implying major reconfigurations of these infrastructure systems. Addressing these challenges is further complicated by fragmented, often reactive, regulation and governance arrangements. Existing business models are considered by the Treasury Select Committee to provide poor value but few proven alternative models exist for mobilising finance, particularly in the current economic climate.
Continued delivery of our civil infrastructure, particularly given current financial constraints, will require innovative and integrated thinking across engineering, economic and social sciences. If the process of addressing these issues is to take place efficiently, whilst also minimising associated risks, it will need to be underpinned by an appropriate multi-disciplinary approach that brings together engineering, economic and social science expertise to understand infrastructure financing, valuation and interdependencies under a range of possible futures. The evidence that must form the basis for such a strategic approach does not yet exist. However, evidence alone will be insufficient, so we therefore propose to establish a Centre of excellence, i-BUILD, that will bring together three UK universities with world-leading track records in engineering, economics and social sciences; a portfolio of pioneering inter-disciplinary research; and the research vision and capacity to deliver a multi-disciplinary analysis of innovative business models around infrastructure interdependencies.
STEP-CHANGE (Sustainable Transport Evidence and modelling Paradigms: Cohort Household Analysis to support New Goals in Engineering design). (Principal Investigator). Funded through the EPSRC Sustainable Urban Environment programme. Project value just over £1.5 million. Jointly with the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) at the University of Manchester and the Department of Sociology at the University of York (Leeds/Birmingham award roughly £750,000). January 2011 – December 2015.
There is an accepted need to promote step changes towards more sustainable urban environments, notably in transport and travel, which we will focus on. While many model-based desk-studies have aimed to simulate such environments as part of a decision support tool, they adopt many unvalidated, hypothetical assumptions, particularly in the way that major transport focused interventions might impact on both behaviour and the effectiveness of the infrastructure. There is very little real evidence of what works and what can be used to promote such changes, deriving from either the physical nature and make-up of urban environments and in the way that people choose to act and behave. The project seeks to produce a step change in current knowledge and practice using a mix of new data sources, methodological innovation in analysis of this diverse data, development of new planning practices and procedures and supporting modelling tools. To this end it will provide the means to develop visions of urban futures of 2050 which are both resilient to external change and sustainable. The knowledge and procedures developed as part of this project will provide a foundation upon which planners and others involved in decision-making in relation to urban transport, at both local and national levels, can start to put in place the necessary changes to achieve the resilient and sustainable visions of 2050.
Visions for the Role of Walking and Cycling to 2030. (Principal Investigator) Funded by EPSRC – project value £1.3 million. October 2008-March 2012. Jointly with the Universities of Oxford, Salford, East Anglia and Manchester (Leeds award £560,377).
This research seeks to examine ways in which more people might be encouraged to walk and cycle in the future, what steps are needed to support this potential increase in walking and cycling and how to improve the experience for those who already use these modes. Walking and cycling can make a considerable contribution to sustainable transport goals, building healthier and more sociable communities and contributing to traffic reduction and lower carbon emissions. The amount of walking and cycling in Britain has declined over the long term and research suggests that there are major obstacles to prevent people from using these modes. There have been many national and local initiatives to promote walking and cycling but without a long term vision and consistent strategy it is difficult to see how a significant change may be achieved. The time is now right to examine the means by which such a fundamental change both in the quantity of walking and cycling, and in the quality of the experience can be achieved, which goes well beyond continuation of existing trends. The work will involve a series of expert workshops to develop visions of alternative futures and also draw in various ways on the experiences of different user groups of the public to ensure that the visions developed are grounded in real experiences. The workshops and other participation events will be used to establish trend breaking views of the future and the key attributes of future conditions which will generate these visions. We will undertake impact assessments to consider the likely costs and benefits of these visions and the potential effects on lifestyle. The work will develop and use innovative methodologies using visualisation software to help users understand how futures might appear, using modelling techniques which examine narrative and storylines to understand how different futures might be attained, and using a range of social research methods to explore how different futures might affect individual lifestyles and society. We will offer people a range of tools that enable them to construct their own versions of the future, and to weave their own stories in and out of expert visions, thus opening up the possibility of a richer and expanded public engagement with the visioning process. This permits a shift from the narrow focus of people's current day decision-making and behavioural and lifestyle choices to a greater focus on the process through which people make decisions and the contextual factors which inform how people choose to live their everyday lives. The value of this project, and the innovative methodologies it adopts, such as the new approach to modelling, is that in this way it opens up the possibilities of a greater understanding of how walking and cycling could change in the future.
Understanding Walking and Cycling. (Co-Investigator, leading Leeds contribution) Funded by EPSRC – project value £1.1 million. October 2008-September 2011. Jointly with Universities of Lancaster (lead) and Oxford Brookes (Leeds award £324,963).
It is widely recognised that an increase in walking and cycling for short journeys in urban areas could significantly reduce traffic congestion, improve the quality of the urban environment, promote improved personal health, and contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions. This is demonstrated by a wide range of policy initiatives by national and local governments, by health authorities and a variety of non-governmental organizations. Recent reviews of research on travel behaviour have emphasised that the ways in which travel decisions are made remains poorly understood, especially in the context of complex and contingent household travel arrangements. This research seeks to fill this gap through an in-depth analysis of household decision making with respect to short journeys in urban areas. It has two key aims: To develop better understanding in which households and individuals make travel decisions about short trips in urban areas; and to develop a 'toolkit' that helps others concerned with promoting more sustainable travel practices in urban areas to target policies and interventions more effectively. The research will adopt a mixed methodology, but with the main emphasis on in-depth qualitative research, and will examine individual, family and household decision making in four different neighbourhoods. Throughout the research the project will engage with a range of stakeholders and potential users, and in the final part of the project will engage potential users with the development of outputs.