Shock resistant: research programme launched for infrastructure resilience

Nancy Kete

A new £10 million research and development programme has been launched with the aim of building networks of knowledge and expertise in resilience engineering. Arup, supported by the charitable Lloyd's Register Foundation, will work on the new project with industry and academia to develop greater understanding of how critical infrastructure can be strengthened to resist 'shocks and chronic stress'.

The new R&D programme, launched at the Lloyd's Register Foundation International Conference, will be led by programme director and former managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr Nancy Kete. She will lead an Arup team that will explore how resilience engineering can be developed into a mainstream discipline by establishing standards and professional qualifications.

“This is an ambitious programme aimed at global change in thinking and practice, so that all those who own, design, and manage critical facilities like energy and water systems, regularly think beyond the fence line," Kete said. "These systems will be valued for how they contribute to the safety and well-being of society. It is no longer enough to commission and design infrastructure not to fail – the traditional risk management approach. These facilities also have to be guaranteed to protect property and people, to provide essential services, and to enable the flow of goods, services, people, and knowledge under a wide range of adverse conditions”.

Launching the programme, Lloyd's Register Foundation's Dr Ruth Boumphrey said essential sectors such as food and water, energy, transportation, telecommunications and healthcare are increasingly complex and interdependent and susceptible to failure under stress. "This programme will play a leading role in an international effort to better understand, communicate and improve the resilience of these services. It will provide resources and leadership so the companies and organisations that supply such services can work together effectively in times of stress to serve society," she said.

Arup director, Jo da Silva, said: “As a company we have been investing in resilience research for several years, responding to the need for new approaches to managing uncertainty and disruption that go beyond traditional risk management. We are seeing growing interest in resilience of communities, cities and critical infrastructure from governments, industry and businesses in response to the challenges of climate change, rapid urbanisation and globalisation. We believe this programme provides a unique opportunity to embed resilience into mainstream thinking and doing”.