What we looked at
This new report, 'How do we ensure the future safety of the complex critical infrastructure on which modern society relies?', produced in collaboration with TUV SUD, provides a review of infrastructure management and maintenance to enable that infrastructure to be in a safe state for society’s use. The report focuses on two forms of infrastructure, energy (e.g. generation, transmission, storage etc..) and transport (e.g. rail, road, sea etc..). The report provides a review of existing published evidence for how infrastructure is managed and maintained to enable it’s safe use. It also provides a review based on viewpoints from global experts across the delivery, ownership, operation and maintenance of that infrastructure. It finally makes a set of recommendations based on the findings from the report.
Why is this important?
The pace of infrastructural development has been vast over the last few decades. Supporting a growing global population, enhancing connectivity between people and place, and serving as a means for transportation and trade, inevitably means the quality and quantum of infrastructure needed is set to grow. What is deemed as ‘critical’ infrastructure – which in its broadest terms is the body of systems, networks and assets that are essential to ensure the security of a nation, its economy and the public’s health and safety – becomes even more pertinent. But do we know what critical infrastructure exists globally, where it exists and how it is currently maintained? How do countries plan to ensure their future needs are met?
What did we do?
The Foundation commissioned a report led by TUV SUD with the University of Cambridge to use available evidence and global expert insight to provide answers to the following questions:
- What is the state of good practice for the management and maintenance of infrastructure to enable a safe outcome for society?
- What does future safety practice look like?
- What evidence is there for the effectiveness of existing and future practice?
The report presents answers to these questions using an analysis of available publications and the output of three regionally focused expert practitioner roundtables in Australia/Asia, Europe and the Americas.
What did the authors recommend?
The authors raise four areas where there were found to be gaps in the provision of safe infrastructure for society:
- Talent: Growing and sustaining a pool of talent with first principles thinking (scientists and engineers) coupled with an awareness of multiple trades and an understanding of the interoperability of complex systems (technologists) is an enduring challenge.
- Data and Information: Being smart with data— codifying what data is of value versus what data is available—will become increasingly important as discrete assets and systems of critical infrastructure become inter-connected and inter-dependent.
- Regulation and Standards: Geographical variations in safety culture and maturity of capabilities to develop, own and operate emerging technologies, is a challenge which is unlikely to be best addressed with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Regional variations, rather than global normalisation, of policies, regulation and standards looks to be an inevitability.
- Consumer Behaviours: A trade-off, between consumer performance expectations, affordability, life safety and societal safety, will begin to bite as the world transitions to a new balance between
What are we going to do next?
The Foundation will present a set of options for next steps to a workshop of international experts to validate our future plans. We then plan to commission several deep dive grants, each based on a key finding of this report. The outcome of these deep dives will provide shape and direction to future investment in this area for the Foundation.