NERC launches new innovation programme to safeguard Britain's infrastructure

7 January 2015

NERC has launched a new strategic innovation initiative to help protect some of Britain's most important national infrastructure from environmental hazards.

Dawlish railway line during sea surge

The five-year, £5m Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Innovation Programme (ERIIP) will give decision-makers in areas such as energy, transport and water improved access to NERC's world-class environmental science.

This will help them to manage risks to Britain's infrastructure system from environmental hazards such as extreme weather, flooding and landslips, while also creating new opportunities for growth.

The investment will help to underpin the government's National Infrastructure Plan, and emphasises NERC's commitment to working in partnership to unlock the societal and economic potential of its science.

The programme will comprise several projects designed to translate existing NERC science and expertise into a form that is useful to the infrastructure sector as a whole.

It will have a broad membership of organisations which will help define the main environmental challenges facing the UK's infrastructure. Programme members can also contribute funding to individual projects themselves.

Earlier this year, NERC ran a pilot scheme to test the sector's appetite for its science. It attracted strong interest, with 57 bids for funding.

Signatories for MoU signings

Initial signatories (left to right); Kate Canning (Arup), Geoff Darch (Atkins), Jean-Benoit Ritz (EDF Energy), Duncan Wingham (NERC), Andy Croxford (Environment Agency), Jonathan Simm (HR Wallingford), Ian Glover (National Grid).

One researcher is working with Scottish Power Energy Networks to quantify the risk of trees being blown over and disrupting power lines in stormy weather. Another is collaborating with Arup and London Underground to shed light on potential ways to increase our rail infrastructure's ability to cope with flooding.

The programme was launched at an event in London attended by initial signatories ARUP, Atkins, EDF Energy, the Environment Agency, HR Wallingford and National Grid.

NERC Chief Executive Professor Duncan Wingham said:

"Last winter the UK's infrastructure was severely tested by a prolonged period of severe weather. The resulting floods and disruption to the rail network serve to underline the need to build resilience into our national infrastructure, and it's clear that NERC has an important role to play in providing the information and expertise required to do so.

This new innovation programme will help the infrastructure sector to make full use of NERC's science in this area."

Dr Ian Glover, Environmental Sustainability Manager at National Grid, said:

"Our core business is about connecting people to the energy they need. As we operate, maintain and build new infrastructure for our changing energy needs, we particularly need to consider the environmental risks. This programme will help ensure we have access to the science we need to respond to those risks."

Richard Ploszek, Interdependencies Lead at HM Treasury's Infrastructure UK, said:

"This five-year innovation programme is very welcome from our perspective. It provides a focal point for an ongoing dialogue about the relationship between infrastructure and the environment. Ensuring good access to good environmental science is key to making sure we include the environment in our definition of what makes good infrastructure."

The storms that hit southwest England

Professors Gerd Masselink and Paul Russell of Plymouth University talk about their NERC-funded research to assess the impacts of some of the worst winter storms on record on the communities and coastlines of southwest England in the video slideshow below.

Subtitles (closed captions) are available once the video is playing.

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