Menu of possibilities discussed at our infrastructure transformation World Cafe

ICE is leading an ongoing and constructive debate around the challenges that we set out in our Infrastructure Transformation green paper. We’ve run blogs, video interviews, student hackathons, industry roundtables and live webinar debates.

Our 'World Cafe' event saw a range of people discuss themes relating to infrastructure transformation
  • Updated: 04 November 2016
  • Author: Ben Goodwin, ICE Policy Manager

Adding to all this activity, Penny Gilg from ICE’s Expert Transport Panel suggested we run a members' 'World Cafe' evening. Here, students, graduates, senior engineers and retired members – switched between four green paper-themed tables.

Everyone had 20 minutes to identify potential risks and opportunities for civil engineers before a bell rang to signal a move to the next table. This is what emerged:

Autonomous vehicles

  • The emerging concept of mobility as a service, the potential household cost savings and environmental benefits that the reduced need for car ownership could bring.
  • The civil engineer’s role in reconfiguring road layouts to enable the safe integration of AVs into highway networks and potential regeneration opportunities following a reduced need for car parks.

Agile infrastructure

  • The advantages of real-time systems management in energy and transport networks were discussed at length.
  • The potential to use big data to model systems requirements and the need for infrastructure to be built so that it can adapt to a range of future demand scenarios.
  • There are concerns about the climate change readiness of our infrastructure.

Artificial intelligence

  • Students want their civil engineering degree to equip them with a better understanding of artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential to improve productivity in the design and delivery of infrastructure services.
  • They want their learning to engage them more in the development and configuration of the software underpinning AI.
  • The skillset of a civil engineer should evolve in parallel to the introduction of new technologies.

Future skills and delivery models

  • There was a consensus that the modern infrastructure sector requires multi-disciplinary engineers to form an adaptable workforce capable of switching between different infrastructure sectors and projects.
  • Traditional construction and infrastructure companies should work much more collaboratively with the technology firms entering the built environment market place.

In summary: technology is the infrastructure driver

Transformational change brought about by disruptive technologies will lead to a more productive and efficient infrastructure sector, improved services and a cleaner environment.

But to maximise these benefits we must be prepared to take a bolder approach to innovation, be more strategic and put technology at the centre of infrastructure development.