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Could a ‘quadruple helix approach’ unlock Scotland’s infrastructure resiliency?

16 March 2021

Why breaking down siloes could deliver fresh thinking on challenges facing our built environment.

Could a ‘quadruple helix approach’ unlock Scotland’s infrastructure resiliency?
Scottish Parliament from Salisbury Crags. Image credit: Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

In early March, ICE Scotland was invited to the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Architecture and the Built Environment to discuss ‘New Thinking for Our Future Places’.

The meeting followed ICE Scotland joining forces with a range of built environment organisations to issue a joint statement, calling for the next Scottish government to join up policies, funding programmes and strategies to achieve net-zero carbon targets, support economic recovery and deliver on the future vision for Scotland’s built environments.

This approach will be critically important in the months and years ahead, but it isn’t the only join up required.

Resiliency challenges

At the Cross Party Group, we presented on the challenges climate change is presenting to Scotland’s infrastructure. Many assets, often already impacted by historic under-investment in maintenance, quite simply were not built to withstand the climate-driven extreme weather events frequently witnessed today.

The current fabric of our built environment will be the foundation on which our future places are built – not least as the Scottish government brings forward a new investment hierarchy with a focus on maximising existing assets.

It’s therefore vital that we increase the resilience of our assets.

That’s why ICE Scotland has been advocating for a holistic resiliency audit to take place.

Such an audit would conduct a thorough resiliency assessment across infrastructure sectors, develop best practice in asset adaptation, and map out resiliency challenges against areas where climate adaptation offers wider socio-economic benefits too.

The best approach though, will require join up.

What's the quadruple helix?

A key benefit of a resiliency audit is that it would allow us to take a comprehensive view of our infrastructure environment – breaking down siloed thinking.

For best effect, we must bring together not just all infrastructure sectors, but government, academia and infrastructure users – the quadruple helix.

Only when you have all these interests joined-up can you break out of siloed thinking and not just develop a strategic approach, but an innovative one – with fresh ideas, solutions and thinking cross-pollinating across the different players.

Delivering fresh thinking

The way we design, build and maintain our infrastructure will need to change radically if we are to ensure a green, digital and inclusive post-Covid recovery.

We need to develop new ways of working to move from short-term thinking to long-term working, from disjointed policies to complimentary strategies and to embed resiliency into our built environments so they are fit for the future.

Though the scale of the challenge seems daunting, perhaps the simplest way of delivering positive infrastructure outcomes is, quite simply, by working together.

Related links

Read ICE Scotland’s State of the Nation 2020: Climate Ready Infrastructure report

  • Hannah Smith, director at ICE Scotland