Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival

Last week myself and a group of us attended the Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) Innovation Festival (#InnovationFestival18), intended to bring people from different areas together to think about and tackle challenges within the water industry (with a focus on NWG). More intriguingly Newcastle University had sponsored one of the 12 sprints, a sprint running all day for the full five days with the idea of developing concepts to solve a problem, with this in particular sprint focused on digital twins (#DigitalTwins). Other sprints included how utilities could better work together to map underground assets and one focused on how can we create a happier and more productive workforce. This was not a small event, with over 2000 people attending and over 500 business involved. In true festival style, the week began with a compulsary participation in a sing-along to ‘The greatest showman’…..

Crowds in main tent (the ‘Thunderdome’) to see guest Alexander Armstrong (of pointless fame).

Great ideas were bounded around, with people involved ranging from those in management positions in NWG, to researchers like myself all who had varied skills and interests, to NWG customers themselves! Ultimately in the Digital Twin sprint where we were most involved, great ideas were devised as to how these could help NWG, from devising a single database system as ‘a single source of truth’ to developing a digital twin for incidents such as bursts as well as one for the whole company for modelling the communication and data flows through personnel. I’m sure across the other 11 sprints more great ideas were involved, with NWG now left with the not so small job of deciding which of these to follow up on!

Work on a #DigitalTwin of a pipe burst which occured a couple of months earlier on the NWG network.

For more information see

Thanks to all the effort of the organisers!

Ps. If you are wondering what the greatest showman is –


DREAM PhD Studentships 2017

We are now looking for applications for our available fully funded PhD studentships with the DREAM CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training). DREAM, Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods, is a partnership between four leading universities based within the UK, Cranfield, Newcastle, Cambridge and Birmingham, and is now into its 3rd year. The CDT focuses on the use of big data to solve environmental risks, with topics covering a wide field of research. All PhD students have a wealth of training opportunities available to them as well as regular networking opportunities with those based at the other partner universities.

Newcastle are looking for applicants interested in any of the PhD’s listed below, with anyone interested asked to contact Dr Stuart Barr.

  • Massive multi-agent simulation of environmental risks to interdependent infrastructure
  • Environmental risks to global resource flows
  • High resolution modelling of real-world floods – models, forecasts and uncertainties
  • Extreme rainfall forecasting: new statistical simulation and Big Data methods for making sense of rainfall radar and rain gauges
  • Capturing Tsunamis and Storm Surges: Coupling the Human and Natural Systems through Games Technology
  • Earth observation for UK-wide flood infrastructure risk management
  • Preserving Privacy for Urban Data in the Internet of Things
  • Big data real-time online analysis of urban flooding impact on traffic flows
  • Improving decision making in hazard situations using geovisualisation
  • Can citizen science observations improve real-time flood risk assessment – bringing the crowd to the cloud?

More information on these PhD’s are available on the DREAM website, where you can also find more details on the CDT and how to apply.

A flyer is also available.

PhD opportunities – DREAM

We have funding available for a number of PhD’s in the area of big data, risk and environmental analysis, with a start date no later than March 2017. The funding is available through the DREAM CDT (, offering students access to world leading research teams and a large selection of training and development opportunities. This funding comes with the freedom to devise your very own reaserch project with the aid of experts from a range of fields who will help guide and support you from the developemnt of the project to the completion of the PhD.

For more information on taking up a PhD with the DREAM CDT, please contact Stuart Barr (


4 Professorial appointments in Spatial Analytics and Modelling

Four new professorial appointments are now being advertised at Newcastle University on the theme of Spatial Analytics and Modelling (SAM). These fall across four areas:

G735 – Professor of Urban Data Analysis

G736 – Professor of Geographical Analysis

G737 – Professor of Spatial Statistics

G738 – Professor of Geospatial Systems Engineering

Applications for these appointment close on the 28th November.


A new job opportunity has arisen for a researcher (assistant/associate) for a 24month position working within our group. The position is tied to the recently awarded multi-million pound ITRC MISTRAL programme grant, a joint project between seven UK based universities, investigating the future of national infrastructure. The appointed person will work on the development of a building classification model for the entire UK, working primarily with Ordnance Survey data. In collaboration with other MISTRAL researchers demographic and economic profiles will then be assigned to buildings providing data to be employed across infrastructure models developed across the consortium.

For further details please see the job advert.

For informal enquiries please contact Dr Stuart Barr.

PhD oportunity in partnership with Ordnance Survey

We are pleased to announce that we have a new four year fully funded PhD studentship available in spatial data modelling with BIM/GIS. Proposed to start in September 2016, the PhD will aim to develop tools for modelling and understanding flows across a city; from the broad city-scale to within individual buildings. Funded by EPSRC, the PhD is a partnership between ourselves at Newcastle University (the Geomaticts group in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences) and Ordnance Survey, and affiliated with the EPSRC funded ITRC-MISTRAL programme.

For more details on the PhD including how to apply, please see here.

ITRC MISTRAL Launch event

At the end of May Stuart Barr attended the launch of the ITRC (Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium) MISTRAL (Multi-Scale Infrastructure Systems Analytics) programme, an EPSRC funded 5year programme between seven universities, including ourselves, with Stuart being one of the co-investigators. Hosted at the ICE (Institute of Civil Engineers) in London, the event presented the vision and ideas behind the new programme, the next step in infrastructure systems-of-systems analysis research following the completion of the previously funded ITRC programme. Attended by over 150 people, including representatives from academia, private sector businesses and public sector organisations, the event included speeches from Professor Jim Hall, the lead investigator on the ITRC MISTRAL project, Lord Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and Keith Clarke, the ICE vice president. A question and answer session then followed providing the opportunity for the attendees to find out more about the ITRC MISTRAL project from the key persons involved, including Stuart.

A video has since been released including snippets from some of the speakers, providing an insight into the work which will be undertaken in the ITRC MISTRAL project and the important role it can play in the future of infrastructure systems.


GeoConnexion article – NISMOD-DB

In the latest issue of GeoConnexion UK a short article, written by Stuart Barr and Craig Robson, details the ongoing work they are doing to develop the UK’s first national infrastructure database. Over the course of the 5 year ESPRC funded ITRC MISTRAL programme, by 2020 a national infrastructure portal will be developed as a resource that will be open to those across academia and industry as well as policy makers. This will provide access to infrastructure datasets and simulation and modelling results, including those from the already completed ITRC project, such as the results from the first national infrastructure long term planning tool. Some of the software developed and employed in the analysis undertaken will also be available under open licenses allowing the research to continue beyond the life of the ITRC MISTRAL project.

Both are based in the Geomatics group in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University, with Stuart a lecturer on the two undergraduate degrees offered, BSc Geographic Information Science and BSc Surveying and Mapping Science, while Craig is a recent graduate of the GIS programme.

New paper: Reducing the impact of extreme weather on infrastructure networks

Last week our latest paper was published entitled ‘Assessing urban strategies for reducing the impacts of extreme weather on infrastructure networks’ in the Royal Socities Open Science journal. Alistair Ford, Craig Robson and Stuart Barr all contributed to the artical alongside colleagues from civil engineering, Maria Pregnolato (lead authour), Vassilis Glenis and Richard Dawson. A summary is given below.

“A framework for assessing the disruption from flood events to transport systems is presented that couples a high-resolution urban flood model with transport modelling and network analytics to assess the impacts of extreme rainfall events, and to quantify the resilience value of different adaptation options. A case study in Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK is presented and shows that both green roof infrastructure and traditional engineering interventions such as culverts or flood walls can reduce transport disruption from flooding.The magnitude of these benefits depends on the flood event and adaptation strategy, but for the scenarios considered here 3–22% improvements in city-wide travel times are achieved.

Both options should form part of an urban flood risk management strategy, but this method can be used to optimize investment and target limited resources at critical locations, enabling green infrastructure strategies to be gradually implemented over the longer term to provide city-wide benefits. This framework provides a means of prioritizing limited financial resources to improve resilience. By capturing the value to the transport network from flood management interventions, it is possible to create new business models that provide benefits to, and enhance the resilience of, both transport and flood risk management infrastructures.”

Inaugural QGIS northern group meeting

A group of us attended the inaugural QGIS northern group meeting, kindly organised and hosted by Seraphim Alvanides at Northumbria University. The meeting focused on the use of QGIS in teaching at university level followed by a broader session on the use of QGIS in other sectors and its development.

From the strong mixture of representatives, presentations from Leeds (Helen Durham) and Newcastle University (David Fairbairn) gave insights into the teaching of QGIS and more broadly open source spatial technologies at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Josephine Ellis, from Blue Kayak, gave an overview of how the skills learnt on these courses are being implemented in a professional environment to move away from proprietary software. Our own David Fairbairn presented details of the teaching some members of group do across a range of degree programmes, including the content on our own GIS and SMS (Surveying and Mapping Sciences) degree courses, but also those modules which we give on Civil Engineering courses as well as to other programmes within the schools of geography and biology . A brief mention was also given to some of the CPD courses which both Leeds and we run, with Laura Hanson (ARUP, formally our group), also referring to these within her talk on experiences with GIS and QGIS.

The later talks were more focused on the application of QGIS and developments of the software and plugins. This was mostly led by public sector inputs, with talks from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (David Renn), Newcastle City Council and Lutra Consulting (Brian Williams and Saber Razmjooei respectively) as well as a talk from Northumberland National Park (Tom Chadwin). These series of talks focused on the adoption of QGIS (from ArcGIS) and the development of plugins to fill gaps within the functionality of QGIS to make it the GIS software of choice for many within the organisations.

From the perspective of researcher within an academic environment and a current QGIS user (as well ArcMap user), it was informative and useful to discover how such software was being applied and developed within different environments.

Plans are being made for further meetings, with suggestions from those interested welcome.