Country: United Kingdom

What did this project achieve?

Establish a network of labs across the UK that delivers world-leading research on cities and infrastructure

Inadequate infrastructure is estimated to cost the UK £2 million a day, and the UK Collaboration for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) was set up to solve this problem.

UKCRIC is a joint venture that allows academia, industry, government and end users to work together to improve the nation’s infrastructure. It was founded by 14 universities, which represent the UK’s academic experts in infrastructure, civil and construction engineering.

It leads the development of new materials, techniques and technologies, as well as research into issues such as investment in rail systems, roads, and flood and water management.

As part of the UKCRIC, state-of-the-art facilities were created at 11 of the founding universities.

These include a Buried Infrastructure Lab at the University of Birmingham, which tests pipes, tunnels and other underground structures.

There’s also a National Research Facility for Infrastructure Sensing at the University of Cambridge, which carries out research into the development, testing and deployment of sensors for infrastructure.

The other founding partners were University College London, University of Bristol, Cardiff University, Cranfield University, Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, University of Leeds, Loughborough University, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, University of Oxford, University of Sheffield and the University of Southampton.

Difference the project has made

The UK now has access to high-tech facilities for researchers to work together on projects that make the country’s infrastructure and cities more sustainable, more adaptable and more able to cope with extreme events such as flooding.

This includes a network of “urban laboratories”, which allow them to quickly trial solutions on a big scale and gather large amounts of data about existing and proposed infrastructure. This data is used to inform government policies, regulations, and how money is spent on infrastructure.

UKCRIC also has a simulator facility, which uses super-fast computing power to run virtual ‘what if’ experiments. Running these virtual tests allows the researchers to look at the pros and cons of a proposed large-scale infrastructure investment.

How the work is being done

UKCRIC’s vision to build more sustainable infrastructure and cities is being achieved in several ways.

It established the network of joined-up national infrastructure laboratories to carry out research in basic science, technology and engineering that underpins infrastructure.

In addition to this, it created a connected network of urban observatories that enable rapid trialling of engineering solutions at scale. This provides data on current and proposed infrastructure assets, which is used to inform decisions made by policymakers, regulators and investors.

It has also created a modelling and simulation environment using high performance computing environments, which can process large amounts of data quickly.

However, it’s the collaboration aspect of the UKCRIC that’s most key.

UKCRIC allows all infrastructure stakeholders – from academics to investors to citizens – to have a centralised portfolio of facilities and research programmes that work to upgrade infrastructure and reduce its cost to the nation.


UKCRIC provides a unique opportunity for the universities to coordinate on best practice, share data and lessons learned, as well as providing a focus for industrial engagement.

Professor Philip Nelson

Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Fascinating facts

Former Chancellor George Osborne announced that the government would fund UKCRIC with £138m in his 2015 Autumn Statement.

Other than national security and medicine, it was one of the largest collaborative research capital investments in the UK.

People who made it happen

  • Client: UK Government
  • Founding partners: University partners Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cranfield, Imperial, Leeds, Loughborough, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and UCL.

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