Download the Foresight review of resilience engineering

Executive summary

This report explores how resilience engineering could enhance the safety of life and property through the improved resilience of engineered structures, systems, organisations and communities around the world. Its findings were developed through a workshop followed by an open consultation process. Lloyd’s Register Foundation will use this review to identify aspects of resilience engineering that align with its charitable objectives and where the Foundation might focus its research and other grant giving to make a distinctive positive societal impact.

Resilience describes the emergent property or attributes that some systems have which allows them to withstand, respond and/or adapt to a vast range of disruptive events by preserving and even enhancing critical functionality. The term is used widely over many different fields of study, but quantitative metrics of the resilience of socio-technical systems are not well established and standards and processes are still emerging. Rigorous methodologies and technical integrity is needed to support the uptake and impact of resilience engineering.

Resilience can be built by developing capabilities to monitor, respond, anticipate and learn. Challenges to resilience include ‘external’ threats from a range of hazards including environmental, social, economic and technological changes, and ‘internal’ threats from organisational deficiencies. New technologies can provide opportunities but also threats to resilience.

Globalisation, uncertainty, demographic change and an excessive focus by managers around current status are identified as challenges to resilience. A lack of incentives, capacity, education and training programmes, effective communication, and parameters to characterise resilience, are also identified.

Engineered solutions to improved resilience of socio-technical systems will require a transdisciplinary approach including engineering; the natural, physical, and social sciences; economics; and policy. Solutions will require assessment and predictive capabilities that do not presently exist, including identification, collection and analysis of relevant data. Pro-active approaches such as ‘Safety 2’ and performance-based engineering can support the resilience goal of preserving critical system functionality in the face of anticipated and unanticipated conditions. The report also identifies the serious challenge of retrofitting existing systems.

There are a wide range of possible actions and interventions that could support resilience. These range from developing facilities and tools to supporting new knowledge and technologies; fostering international collaboration and understanding of global systems; establishing foundational research; learning from ecology and ecosystems; and developing better incentives for improving resilience.