Research to tackle ‘grand challenges’ for water sector gets £3.9m boost #ukcric #ibuild

Picture1A new £3.9million research project involving Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water will ensure the UK maintains a clean, sustainable water supply for the future.

The project will help the UK water sector tackle key challenges, including population growth, ageing infrastructure and climate change.

The project is part of the £21 million ‘Engineering Grand Challenges’ funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), announced today by the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson who said: “We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to innovate and this £21 million investment will bring together the nation’s researchers to address some of the most pressing engineering challenges we face.

“From ground-breaking work with robotics to advanced air-flow simulators, this investment will help tackle our aging water infrastructure and air pollution in cities to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.”

Named TWENTY 65 (Tailored Water to ENsure sustainabiliTY beyond 2065), the project will ensure flexible and adaptive water systems by developing multiple solutions and technologies that can be ‘tailored’ to suit specific circumstances. The academic partners – led by Sheffield University and involving Newcastle, Exeter, Manchester and Reading Universities as well as Imperial College London – will undertake research across eight technical themes, focusing on demand-based technologies, social practices, water energy systems to minimise carbon emissions and the use of robotic autonomous systems for infrastructure inspection and repair.

The project will also create a Hub involving Northumbrian Water and nine other water companies, their supply chain and academic researchers to encourage shared idea generation, strategic roadmapping, networking, innovation stimulation and research leadership.

This combination of multi-disciplinary academic research and collaborative work with the UK water sector will enable the TWENTY 65 project team to lead UK and international transformation in the sustainable supply of safe water.

Professor Richard Dawson said: “We are delighted to be part of this consortium that will work to ensure there is enough water, for all, for ever. Newcastle are leading work that will develop new computer modelling tools to study the long term pressures on water, to enable development of integrated solutions to tackle future water challenges. This builds on Newcastle’s recent multi-million pound award in the 2015 Budget to develop new surface water flood management research facilities as part of their involvement in the UKCRIC programme.”

Chris Jones, Northumbrian Water’s Research and Development Manager said: “We believe it is important to work with universities to develop innovative solutions to challenges the water industry faces now and in the future.

“We are already collaborating with Newcastle University in many areas including research into low-carbon and energy efficient treatment processes and processes that work better in low temperatures; the recovery of valuable by-products from wastewater; gene sequencing to help improve bathing water quality and reducing flooding from sewers.

“Future focus will help us to improve the quality and appearance of our customers’ drinking water and to reduce leakage.

“Being part of this project will afford us even greater access to innovative ideas and stimulate our own innovation agenda and activities.

“The TWENTY 65 Hub will stimulate collaboration with a wide range of companies and academics, and enable quicker conversion of research ideas to implementation, clearly supporting our vision to be the national leader of sustainable water and wastewater services.”

Professor Joby Boxall, Director of Sheffield Water Centre and overall project lead, said: “Water supply is the foundation of society, but a service we are privileged to be able to take for granted in the UK. There is no single solution to the sustainable supply of safe clean water for the future. Our vision is that by 2065, collaborative innovation has generated a water sector that is delivering sustainable tailored water solutions that positively impact on public health, the environment, the economy and society.

“New approaches and models for collaborative working across the water sector are an essential part of the project. We have support pledged from over 50 partners and will be looking to get more organisations on board.”

“This is a truly unique and exciting opportunity to take a long-term view of how we can develop and implement technology to deliver transformative change.”

The project was developed in response to an EPSRC call in early 2015 which set out four Engineering Grand Challenges, developed through a two day event involving academics from many disciplines, representatives from industry and government.



#ibuild Deputy Director Andy Pike gives oral evidence to @CommonsCLG Communities and Local Government Select Committee

On Monday 3 February 2014, Professor Andy Pike, Director of CURDS, gave oral evidence to the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee Inquiry into Fiscal Devolution to Cities and City Regions. The second oral evidence session examined the process of devolving powers, governance, business rates and borrowing; equalisation and redistribution; and non property taxes.  CURDS submitted written evidence to the Select Committee Inquiry.

Funded #ibuild #PhD – Securing Private Sector Investment in Public Infrastructure: An International Comparative Analysis

Reference Code: GPS11

Closing Date: 5th February 2014

Name of the Supervisors

Professor Andy Pike, Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS)

Dr Oliver Heidrich, School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (CEGS)

Dr Jane Gibbon, Newcastle University Business School (NUBS)


Duration of the Award
Three years

Project Description
Financing public infrastructure renewal and development presents acute problems for governments internationally in the context of changing demands for infrastructure services, shifting models of valuation, climate change, energy resource shortages, innovative technologies and growing interdependencies between infrastructural systems. Such concerns have been accentuated following the global financial crisis, economic downturn and recession, state austerity and fiscal consolidation and the expected role of infrastructure as a generator of economic recovery as well as financial savings. The research aims to better understand and explain the models, valuation, roles and processes of private sector investment in public infrastructure in an international comparative context.

Value of the Award and Eligibility
A full award covers tuition fees at the UK/EU RCUK rate and an annual stipend of £13,726 for up to three and a half years. Applicants must meet the EPSRC’s eligibility criteria.

Person Specification
To apply you must have:

  • achieved or be undertaking an MA/MSc programme in a relevant area
  • knowledge and experience of public and private sector finance, investment institutions, economic development and regeneration policy and institutions, and public infrastructure funding
  • commitment and knowledge of working on a multi-disciplinary research project and quantitative and qualitative methodologies and analyses
  • commitment and willingness to undertake a PhD studentship research project and work collaboratively within the iBUILD research centre.

How to Apply
You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application form selecting ‘PhD School of Geography, Politics and Sociology – Geography’ as the programme of study. Please insert the code GPS11 in the studentship/partnership reference field. Please also include reference CURDS-iBUILD2014 in the research proposal field.

A CV and cover letter, quoting the studentship code GPS11 and reference number CURDS-iBUILD2014 should also be sent to: Professor Andy Pike, Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), e-mail:

Further Information
For further details, please contact:
Professor Andy Pike
Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS)

CESER director receives new #wearefairphone – a new business model for mobile phones?

I would not normally consider the arrival of a new phone to be newsworthy.  However, this one is different – the team behind it have developed a high-performance smartphone that has sought to place social and environmental values at its core without compromising on quality. Steps take include sourcing of minerals from conflict-free mines, a worker welfare fund, social assessment of factory procedures, reducing waste in the supply chain and investing profits into the establishment of recycling fund.  I was particularly impressed by the fairphone blog (yes much more active than this one for starters) that revealed in some detail the steps taken, their successes – but was also very honest about the barriers and limits.  This transparency provided a fascinating insight into the complexity of implementing social and environmental values into global supply chains, and its honesty is refreshing.

They have now sold and shipped their first 25,000 units – and I am a proud owner of a specially marked “First Edition” phone.  Aside from my natural passion for sustainable living, this initiative seemed particularly relevant to the iBUILD Infrastructure Business Models research programme that I lead.  A core goal of iBUILD is to try and harness the social and environmental value of infrastructure.  Parts of the iBUILD programme explicitly focus on issues around the infrastructure supply chain and the interdependencies between infrastructure and the economy – that provide challenges but also opportunities.  Although the gulf between mobile phones and infrastructure may seem large, I think there is much that we can learn from the fairphone journey!


@nclceser collaborators @SMART_facility release their #smartgreenpaper outlining #infrastructure imperatives for Australia

As in the UK, Australia is seeking to extract more value for each infrastructure dollar invested.  SMART have identified a number of recommendations based upon three infrastructure imperatives:

  • Establish an Australian Infrastructure Market
  • Enhance attractiveness of infrastructure for private funding
  • Overhaul infrastructure for radical innovation and productivity growth

The emphasis on funding and innovation to stimulate growth is a core driver behind the CESER led iBUILD infrastructure business models project.

The full report can be downloaded from:

Research job #iBUILD and #CESER #infrastructure #systems modeller

iBUILD (Infrastructure BUsiness models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery) is a major EPSRC and ESRC funded research programme to improve the delivery of infrastructure systems and their services they provide.  iBUILD focuses on urban infrastructure where interdependencies between infrastructures, economies and society are most profound.

You will join the iBUILD team and develop and demonstrate new approaches to modelling the technical and market risks and opportunities associated with the interdependence of modern infrastructure systems.  For more details please visit:

or contact iBUILD Director: Professor Richard Dawson ( or iBUILD Centre Manager Dr. Claire Walsh ( directly


@CommonsPAC report on @DCMS #broadband rollout highlight need for #iBUILD #infrastructure research

Two recent reports by the Public Accounts Committee highlight the important role the CESER led iBUILD Infrastructure Business Models Research Centre has to play in facilitating infrastructure delivery.

The first, on Integration across government and Whole-Place Community Budgets highlights the benefits of a strong evidence base for greater integration of services – particularly at the local level. Although disappointing there is no specific mention of infrastructure the message about the importance of integration is clear. 

The other report, looked at the rollout of rural broadband, is another example of the limits of current business models for infrastructure.  Interestingly in the context of rural broadband, some communities are really innovating and exploring alternative approaches to owning and deploying infrastructure.

Until we are able to apply business models that capitalise on the opportunities afforded by interdependencies and delivery of integrated services; capture the wider economic, social and environmental benefits provided by infrastructure; and balance local needs with national priorities it seems unlikely that we will deliver good value for money to the nation.  iBUILD has just begun its journey but intends to deliver alternative approaches that address these issues, and work with public, private and third sector partners to encourage their uptake.



Newcastle Launch: Infrastructure BUsiness models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery

iBUILD is a £3.5m programme, funded by two UK research councils, following a request in the 2011 National Infrastructure Plan.  The programme is led by Professor Richard Dawson at Newcastle University.

iBUILD focuses on local and urban infrastructure, and in line with this, is establishing Centre hubs in Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham.  These hubs will lead a series of events to explore alternative business models and the opportunities within these cities and their surrounding regions.

The Newcastle iBUILD Centre is holding a launch event on Wednesday 20 November from 3pm to 6pm at the Newcastle Business School on the Science Central Site.

The event will include a brief introduction to the research programme, discussion around how you can get involved with the project at a number of levels and identifying local priorities and case studies. There will also be presentations from Edward Twiddy (NELEP) and Andrew Lewis (Newcastle City Council).

If you would like to register to attend please complete the following form: .

SHOCK Project Dissemination Event

SHOCK (NOT) HORROR is an EPSRC-funded project that, over the past two years, has been looking at how ‘shock’ events can provide opportunities for learning about and transformation of infrastructure systems.

On Friday 22 November (10am to 4pm) we will be holding our final project dissemination event at The Royal Society in London. The event will include an overview of the project process, methodologies and findings. Interactive sessions will draw upon a number of  activities and experiments that the project has conducted to prompt discussion around identifying barriers and enablers for change and innovation of infrastructure systems. A final open discussion on the value of this research and its outcomes, alongside other on-going research programmes will aid identification of future research priorities.

If you would like to register to attend please complete the following form: Please feel free to circulate the attached project information flyer to others who may be interested in the event.

A more detailed programme will be available nearer the time of the event.

North East Sustainability Roundtable

Oliver Heidrich and Jane Gibbon participated in an expert group (North East Sustainability Roundtable) for the Insider magazine, the UK’s leading regional business publication which is distributed to around 8,000 businesses in the North east, discussing challenges of Sustainability and business.

The challenge for businesses, especially large ones, is to embed sustainable processes and systems into the business, within tight timescales and often with reduced budgets. Innovation is the key to this and the North East has many examples of how techniques, systems and processes that are having a major impact.

The benefits of creating sustainable solutions within businesses are numerous and the North East Sustainability Roundtable discussed these alongside some of the challenges too. The panel brought together experts from academia, trade organisations and businesses, and explored a number of key sustainability issues.