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CSIC Annual Lecture 2015 London's transport: infrastructure, value and the case for innovation

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Samantha Archetti.

This lecture will offer a railway civil engineer’s perspective on innovation in the development of major infrastructure. The focus will be on some of the transport systems on which London, in particular, depends. These systems have been a target for application of a number of the technologies being developed through CSIC in Cambridge. The lecture will look at the need for change in infrastructure, mechanisms that may help enable that change, and examples of innovation which may teach us lessons for the future.

We will start by considering the nature of infrastructure systems and the reasons why we might wish to expand and change the infrastructure we have. London in 2015 clearly demonstrates drivers for change. Population in the city has recently grown to its highest ever level and the locations of employment centres are evolving. This presents both challenge and opportunity for the transport system.

When we perceive a possible case for changing infrastructure or the associated processes we must consider how to show the value of investing in the changes we propose. Unless we can do this effectively many of the best ideas may be left on the shelf. Future change will need to be sustainable and clearly related to tangible and measurable benefits. Unfortunately we sometimes find the benefit of future change can be hard to quantify, particularly when it is associated with unfamiliar technology. The issues might relate to technical capability, economics or risk but we may also find that human factors, such as trust in the technology, may be significant in determining what is adopted. A structured “Value Model” may provide a tool for better describing potential benefits and uncertainties in a way which both the innovation proposer and the infrastructure manager can evaluate.

The lecture will be illustrated with examples of recent and historic technology innovations ranging from Roman engineering through spiral escalators and computer controlled tunnelling to future station design in a 4D virtual world. The reasons why some ideas have been more successfully adopted than others will be considered. Can we learn from these experiences? Can we get better at spotting which technologies we should invest in and how do we ensure we maximise the success when we do invest?

This talk is part of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure & Construction series.

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