Knowledge development and transfer in geotechnical engineering, Cambridge

27 September, 2017 | 18:00 - 21:00

Venue address:

Emmanuel College
Queen’s Building
St Andrew’s Street
Cambridge CB2 3AP
United Kingdom
Building on knowledge
Building on knowledge

About this event

Two of the most prominent names in geotechnical engineering – Nick O'Riordan (Arup) and Professor Malcolm Bolton (University of Cambridge) – will present and discuss their thoughts and experience regarding knowledge development and transfer in geotechnical engineering.

  • How is knowledge created in geotechnical engineering?
  • What is the role of industry and academia in developing knowledge?
  • How can we effectively transfer established knowledge between organisations and institutes?

Nick O'Riordan, Global Geotechnics leader, Arup:

Civil, and its slightly younger offspring Geotechnical, Engineering is, at its best and most enjoyable, a team sport. Unlike most sports each project is unique (the ball changes shape and size, sometimes there is no ball, the pitch changes during the match and so on), it generally has a long timeline from concept through delivery to use, and team membership changes all the time. So how do we provide the confidence and desire to innovate to a project team so that clients and stakeholders are delighted rather than dismayed?

My presentation will provide examples of geotechnical knowledge development and transfer at various levels of scale: global/regional, country, company, project, individual. It will set out some of the challenges and differences in priority that exist in industry and academia in knowledge development, transfer and application. It will include ways in which inverse analysis, data analytics and curation, and artificial intelligence can improve outcomes and reduce loss of knowledge and confidence.

Professor Malcolm Bolton, Emeritus Professor, University of Cambridge, Department of Engineering

Academics hope to develop radical ideas. Practitioners hope to solve practical problems. Working together, they may secure both. Three examples are introduced with quite different origins, each represented by a Geotechnique paper: Bolton (1986) The strength and dilatancy of sands; Take & Bolton (2011) Seasonal ratcheting and softening in clay slopes, leading to first-time failure; Bolton & Whittle (1999) A non-linear elastic perfectly-plastic analysis for plane strain undrained expansion tests. Each development faced, and still faces, some challenging hurdles.

An extended discussion will follow the presentations, chaired by Professor Giulia Viggiani (University of Cambridge). We encourage people to submit questions for the discussion in advance, please email

The event will conclude with a drinks and nibbles reception.

This is a joint event with Cambridge University Geotechnical Society

The event is free to attend but registration is required

Deadline for registration: midday Friday 22 September.


For more information, please contact:

Fiona Hughes

Event materials

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Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed on any matters by the presenters or participants during or in connection with this presentation are solely the views of the authors of the respective comments and/or opinions and must not be taken to be the views of ICE or any other organisation. ICE makes no representations, warranties or assurances concerning any information provided in these presentations and accepts no responsibility for the content and/or accuracy.