i-BUILD: Infrastructure BUsiness models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery

EPSRC and ESRC have recently announced the funding of i-BUILD, a £3.5M research centre, led by Professor Richard Dawson at Newcastle University, to develop new approaches to infrastructure business models with the ultimate aim of replacing current public-private business models that in many cases provide poor value.

While national scale infrastructure plans, projects and procedures set the wider agenda, it is at the scale of neighbourhoods, towns and cities that infrastructure is most dense and interdependencies between infrastructures, economies and society are most profound – and hence the focus of our activity will be at these local and urban scales.  Balancing growth across regions and scales is crucial to the success of the national economy. The Government’s response (March 2013) to Lord Heseltine’s review of local economic growth emphasised the devolution of funding for local major infrastructure schemes that is occurring from 2015, the importance of the development of an integrated approach to local infrastructure investment and also noted the requirement for alternative funding models. This localism agenda is encouraging local agents to develop new infrastructure related business but this is limited by the lack of robust new business models with which to do so at the local and urban scale.

To develop a new generation of business models the i-BUILD research programme is structured around three main research streams:

(i)   Reducing the costs of infrastructure delivery by understanding interdependencies between systems and alternative finance models;

(ii)  Improving the way we value the wider benefits of our infrastructure by identifying and exploiting the social, environmental and economic opportunities; and,

(iii) Reconciling local scale priorities with regional and national strategic needs – because no locality is disconnected from its surroundings.

New approaches developed through these research streams will be tested and demonstrated on integrative case studies in partnership with an extensive stakeholder group from academic, private, public and voluntary sector organisations. 

An official launch event will take place on the 7th June.  Details to follow.

About the i-BUILD team:
The i-BUILD Centre brings together a highly integrated and multi-disciplinary team embracing many of the UK’s leading researchers in infrastructure engineering, business modelling, economic analysis and social science, alongside an extensive stakeholder group.  The Centre will have its headquarters at Newcastle University (Director: Professor Richard Dawson, CESER; Deputy director: Professor Andy Pike, CURDS) in collaboration with leading academics from the University of Birmingham (Deputy directors: Professor Chris Rogers; Professor John Bryson) and the University of Leeds (Deputy directors: Professor Phil Purnell; Professor Andy Gouldson). 

About the Newcastle team:
i-BUILD draws together expertise in civil engineering, urban economy, business models and societal engagement from four schools at Newcastle University: the School of Civil Engineering & Geosciences, the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University Business School and the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

The full i-BUILD team can be found here:

Adaptation and Resilience in Cities: Final dissemination event

Adaptation and Resilience in Cities: Analysis and decision making using integrated assessment (ARCADIA)

Final dissemination event, 2 May, London

Building upon work developed during the Tyndall Centre Cities Programme, the ARCADIA project has developed a methodological approach for looking at risks to urban systems, understanding the inter-relationships between climate impacts, the urban economy, land use, transport and the built environment, has enabled the testing of adaptation options to design cities that are more resilient. The final dissemination event will be held on Thursday 2 May, 1-5pm, at the Friend’s Meeting House, Euston Road, London. During the event, key messages from the project will be presented using the example impacts of urban heat and flood risk. There will also be more detailed presentations and demonstrations of the project’s methodological approaches: spatial weather generator, economic modelling, land-use and transport modelling.  During the event we will welcome your review, evaluation and potential use of the tools, methodologies and research outcomes that will be showcased.

To register to attend please email Claire.Walsh@ncl.ac.uk   by Tuesday 30 April.

U-Café: exploring the potentials of up-cycling

The concept of upcycling is recognised as only successful if the general public not only recognise these new potentials in waste material, but are also motivated to do something with them too.  What is not currently known, is the willingness of people to own a handbag made from materials once regarded as rubbish or waste, or live in a building insulated with material of a similar origin.  How, and why would people of very different social, economic and cultural backgrounds choose to engage with up-cycled products, if at all?  To gauge a range of possible perceptions around notions of waste, value and utility, an interdisciplinary team of academics and students from Newcastle University are constructing a Café made from materials described as rubbish or waste. The structure of ‘U-Café’ will be cardboard and plastic, and has been designed to function as a working café.  This is intended as a space where people of different ages, and from different neighbourhoods of Newcastle, will be invited to participate in a research dialogue with members of the project team. It is hoped that, by encouraging research participants to experience waste materials in new

ways, it will be possible to explore the potential value of up-cycled products and components.





U-Café will be open for business between Tuesday 16 and Thursday 18 April, and we invite you to come along and get involved.  All ‘customers’ will get a free cup of coffee.  You will find Café in the new Fine Art Lobby – opposite Northern Stage.

Tuesday 16th April 

0930 to 1700

With recitals from Hadrian Primary School’s upcycled orchestra

Wednesday 17th April

0930 to 1600

Featuring screenings of short film, ‘Second Hand Sureshots’

Thursday 18th April

0930 to 1700

With an afternoon of live music from Junk Agency

Funded PhD in CESER available

PhD in Earth Systems Engineering: Sustainable cities, infrastructure and catchments

Earth Systems Engineering addresses the analysis, design, engineering and management of coupled human, environmental and engineered systems. It relates to how engineering decisions can take better account of long term changes (e.g. in the climate, land use and human behaviour), societal interactions (e.g. between the built environment, transport demand and greenhouse gas emissions) and other uncertainties.

The Centre for Earth Systems Engineering Research (CESER) at Newcastle University, U.K. is seeking an outstanding candidate for a funded PhD student position in its Earth Systems Engineering programme.

Our programme brings together work on (i) natural hazards and environmental change, (ii) field monitoring and geomatics, (iii) informatics and systems modelling, (iv) decision-support tools and methods. We invite applications in the topics above, in areas related to our catchment; sustainable cities or infrastructure systems programme.

Indicative PhD topics and more information on our programme can be found: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ceser/phds/

Application details here:

Funding Notes:
This award is available to the candidates who meet the ESPRC eligibility criteria. A full award covers tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stripend of £13,590 (2013-14).

Co-organisers of an EU adaptation training school for climate adaptation decision-makers in cities

At the end of February 2013 a successful and highly enjoyable Climate Change Adaptation Training School was organised by Tecnalia, CESER and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).  Climate change adaptation managers for cities from 13 European countries attended the Training School which was held in Bilbao, Spain. Alistair Ford travelled by train from Newcastle to lead a day on urban integrated assessment modelling based on our Integrated Systems Demonstration of  Cities .

 A mixture of sessions led by industry, government and academic representatives delivered presentations, workshops and practical exercises to disseminate expert knowledge to assist policy makers who are beginning to address Climate Change Adaptation issues in European cities.

The School was financed by the European Cost Action TU-0902 (Integrated assessment technologies to support the sustainable development of urban areas) which is Chaired by CESER Director, Richard Dawson.

Using Twitter to understand football supporting patterns

The location of the football team that you support is often a cause for debate, with chants like “we support our local team” being heard on the terrace week in week out. And now with the influx of football fans taking to twitter to support their teams this provides another way of measuring this metric.

As a group the idea of using twitter to crowd source the location of events is not a new one. Previously we have used it to record flood events across the north east allowing for a real time map to be produced. An idea which will be used heavily in the forthcoming iTURF project (integrating Twitter with Realtime Flood modelling).

Developomg a football script it was simply a matter of applying our previously developed scripts to record the locations of tweets related to football teams. Here, the official hashtag for each team and then simply recorded the club, location and time, the actual body of the tweet is not stored.  With the script in place data feeds into a database and a webpage displaying the tweets in real-time which is available here


The data can also provide hotspots showing key areas of support for each team, predictably some show more spread than others.

More details, including analysis of average distance from homeground are reported on the Geospatial team’s webpages.

Geospatial team Open Source contribution recognised

The Geospatial group within CESER are offically an OSGEO lab, and thus part of a growing number of universites globally to hold such a title. Only those universities and departments which can showcase extensive work, skills and experience in the use of open source tools and software for geospatial related research are awarded the title. The title/gorup comes after a  memorandum of understanding was signed between the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) and the International Cartographic Association (ICA) in 2011. For more information on the memorandum, follow this link

As part of becoming a OSGEO lab, we have also developed a new website to showcase our related work. This can be found at http://research.ncl.ac.uk/osgeolab/

For further information on this announcement, see the press release which can be found on our blog at https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/geospatialengineering/2013/01/08/newcastle-geospatial-engineering-part-of-the-osgeo-labs-for-research-and-education/

Collaborative platform to facilitate engineering decision-making

Researchers from CESER (Claire Walsh, Richard Dawson, Stephanie Glendinning, Vassilis Glenis) in collaboration with researchers from Centre for Knowledge Innovation Technology and Enterprise and Newcastle City Council have recently published a paper which introduces the concept of a ‘Decision Theatre’ and describes how this approach was tested by co-designing, with a range of stakeholders, two events to identify current vulnerabilities of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne to a storm event and to investigate the effectiveness of adaptation options to surface water flooding. Based on these ‘proof of concept’ events, CESER along with other researchers at Newcastle University are considering are more permanent research and engagement facility for exploring and understanding collaborative decision-making and public engagement.

Four interactive information screens presenting information about the storm as it unfolds

Walsh CL; Glendinning S; Dawson RJ; England K; Martin M; Watkins CL; Wilson, R; Glenis V; McLoughlin A; Parker D. 2013. Collaborative platform to facilitate engineering decision-making. Engineering Sustainability 166, ES2: 98-107.

The full paper can be downloaded at: HERE.

This paper is in a special issue of Engineering Sustainability on ‘Participatory Planning’ which is available on the journal’s website.

Richard Dawson appointed Associate Deputy Editor of Climatic Change

Richard Dawson, CESER director, has been invited to join the editorial team of Climatic Change as an Associate Deputy Editor.

Climatic Change is one of the world’s leading environmental science journals.  It is an Interdisciplinary, International Journal Devoted to the Description, Causes and  implications of Climatic Change.

The journal’s interdisciplinary focus encourages researchers in any discipline, be it meteorology, anthropology, agricultural science, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, geography, policy analysis, economics, engineering, geology, ecology, or history of climate, to communicate the essence of their studies to people in other climate related disciplines and to interested non-disciplinarians, as well as to report on research in which the originality is in the combinations of (not necessarily original) work from several disciplines. The journal also includes editorial and book review sections and ‘Climatic Change Letters’ which offers a space for short articles announcing new findings of timely and compelling interest to researchers in climate-related disciplines.