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Ten research priorities on net-zero for civil engineering

06 October 2020

ICE’s Research Development and Innovation towards Engineering Excellence Panel recently came together with a select group to help shape the new funding calls for the ICE Research and Development Enabling Fund. Here we present the findings.

Ten research priorities on net-zero for civil engineering

The ICE Research, Development and Innovation towards Engineering Excellence Panel workshop, centred around the critically urgent theme of net-zero, was designed to understand the research landscape in our sector and identify areas that might benefit from additional support.

Within the presentations and group discussion, significant ideas emerged around the research that the civil engineering profession could perform to further advance the net-zero carbon agenda. In addition to this, some of the primary barriers to reducing carbon in our sector were identified.

Below are10 priorities that emerged which will inform the new funding calls:

Understanding what is already out there

It will be essential to consolidate existing projects, data and roadmaps on Net Zero that have been produced by various organisations, bodies and institutions, so everything can be found in a central place.

Systems, interdependencies and dependencies

A systems approach must be taken to understand where the leverage points can be found, and where the (inter)dependencies are, so we might effect real change. Our profession, alongside many others, cannot afford BAU going forward, and success will require systemic transformation.

Behaviour change and leadership

Widespread behaviour change must be encouraged, empowering all individuals but also the key stakeholders who can lead on action.

Collaboration is essential

All players within the civil engineering space and beyond must work together to achieve this goal, sharing best practice with one another, and combining strengths and expertise to form partnerships.

Communication of work and research already ongoing

There is already a great deal going on in the net-zero research space, and this knowledge must be disseminated to the whole civil engineering profession, creating awareness of best practice and creating linkages.

…and this communication must be accessible

While a written report is likely the most common method of disseminating research, we all need to think outside the box with how we can best showcase the most effective research and tools on Net Zero. This could be an interactive platform, or short guide.

Automation and accessibility of data for measurement

When measuring, monitoring and reporting, it is important that all organisations are using consistent data and resources. Data should be stored in one central area so the same sets can be used across the board.

Effective and consistent appraisal

Is there a way that all significant UK infrastructure be appraised using a common, rigorous and transparent approach to ensure alignment with the Paris Agreement?

There must be incentivisation to change

How can organisations be incentivised to prioritise lower carbon options instead of ‘lower cost options’ by demonstrating that systemic designs can yield multiple benefits and yield ‘greatest value’? How can different procurement models accelerate the transition to net-zero?

Engineering all forms of governance

Work in this space must consider codes and standards, regulation, legislation, and taxation and incentives in a new approach to joined-up (formal) governance, and recognise the need to address also informal forms of governance (societal and industrial attitudes, behaviours and norms).

Visit the ICE Research and Development Enabling fund or email [email protected] for more information. Applications for the fund are welcome all year round.

Be sure to join incoming ICE President Rachel Skinner's inaugural address on 3 November where she will be discussing the importance of carbon emission reduction and the need for urgent actions.Book the event here.

  • Katie Momber, climate community manager at ICE