£1.4 million awarded to boost UK infrastructure resilience against climate change
24 Aug 2023



There is an urgent and increasing need to protect the UK's natural and built environments from a surge in population growth, and severe weather events such as extreme floods and droughts caused by climate change.




Today (24 August 2023), the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Scientific Computing Department Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis announced that £1.4 million has been awarded across eight UK-based projects to boost UK infrastructure resilience against these types of events.

Using computational modelling on the Data & Analytics for National Infrastructure (DAFNI), these eight projects strive to strengthen UK's resilience against severe weather events and other complex challenges, reducing the risks of road closures, energy failures, sewer flooding, water and food shortages, as well as protecting underground infrastructure such as water pipes and electrical cables.

For example, a project from the University of Oxford is addressing the concerns around England's water supply as traditional water resource management is no longer sufficient to address such complex issues.

And another project from University College London has created a model that simulates land use and transportation patterns in the UK, allowing users to run “what-if" scenarios to predict the impact of infrastructures to the land, such as the impact of High Speed 2 on the UK's urban system.

The funding not only highlights the importance of fortifying the UK's natural and built environments but also underscores the critical need to combat potential losses arising from the growing impacts of climate change.

The outputs from the Centre of Excellence will be instrumental in providing policymakers, local councils, and private companies with the essential analysis and scenario-planning vital to ensure the UK is resilient against potential future risks.

The researchers who have been awarded a share of the £1.4 million are speaking at DAFNI's annual conference taking place in the Sir Alexander Fleming building at Imperial College London on 12 September 2023. 

In Spring 2023, DAFNI opened the Centre of Excellence with £4 million in funding from the Building a Secure and Resilient World strategic theme at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The STFC Scientific Computing Department delivers the DAFNI programme for UKRI.

Dr Brian Matthews, DAFNI Facility Lead and leader of the Open Data Systems Group at the STFC Scientific Computing Department adds:

“We were delighted with the quality and scope of applications received and it was difficult to choose from the excellent proposals put forward. We feel that the successful projects together explore a range of research challenges in infrastructure resilience that will provide the momentum to deliver the Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis on DAFNI. I look forward to working with these exciting projects over the next 2 years."

Kristine Zaidi, Associate Director for Arts and Humanities Research Council and lead for the Building a Secure and Resilient World theme

“To build a more secure and resilient world we must put people at the heart of our research. The eight projects announced today will help communities of all sizes improve their ability to prevent and respond to threats from extreme weather occurrences. By working across disciplines and improving access to robust evidence and information, we can strengthen the UK's resilience. I look forward to seeing the impact these projects will have on a wide range of sectors."​

Press contact – Jake Hepburn

STFC Press Officer

Phone: 07525 287 545 | Email: jake.hepburn@stfc.ac.uk

Notes to editors

Summaries of the UK projects awarded:

Simulating the Resilience of Transport Infrastructures using QUANT

Richard Milton from the University College London is working on a model, called QUANT, created by Prof. Michael Batty, which simulates the pattern of land use and transportation for Great Britain.

The model will be able to generate “what-if" scenarios and predict impacts that enable stakeholders to test various plans, including the impact of shocks to the land by new infrastructures such as High Speed 2. It will also demonstrate how AI can be used to inform by the generation of alternative scenarios.

Uncertainty quantification and sensitivity analysis for resilient infrastructure systems

Computational modelling provides a vital tool to support infrastructure investment decisions. Model outputs though are conditional on a range of uncertain assumptions and input data. Overconfidence in model results and insufficient consideration of the breath of possible futures is a key obstacle to resilient infrastructure design.

This project, led by Francesca Pianosi of the University of Bristol, will integrate into DAFNI a generic methodology to analyse the propagation of uncertainties and enable better model construction, validation, and use for decision-making under uncertainty.

The methodology will be tested and showcased on pilot applications in the water and energy systems sector.  Ultimately the project will contribute to promote best practices for responsible modelling and robust decision-making in the DAFNI user's community.

Building systemic resilience of interdependent infrastructure networks at the national scale

This project led by Raghav Pant, Principal Investigator from the University of Oxford, aims to deliver an open-source modelling framework on the DAFNI platform for stress-testing interdependent network resilience against flood and storm events.

The project builds upon years of modelling of the UK's interdependent infrastructure systems in the EPSRC-funded Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium Programme Grants and for the National Infrastructure Commission.

The outputs from this work will provide a core modelling component for national infrastructure resilience analysis and help engage with the wider stakeholder community to demonstrate, promote and exploit the DAFNI platform.

Flood Infrastructure Resilience Model 

The Flood Infrastructure Resilience Model (FIRM), led by Principal Investigator Richard Dawson of Newcastle University, is an agent based model that simulates how people and organisations respond to the effects of flood infrastructure failure before, during, and after extreme weather events.  The model can be used to assess different strategies to minimise threats to lives and infrastructure during a flood incident.

This project will recode FIRM and make it available to the community on DAFNI. The model's capabilities will be upgraded to incorporate more recent approaches to flood incident management and provide training to enhance its accessibility to the wider research and stakeholder community, thereby contributing to better preparation and responses to flood incidents.

Pywr-WREW, a Water Resources model for England and Wales built in Python water resources simulation system

With growing concerns to England's water supplies due to population growth, climate change, and ecological needs, traditional water resource management, focused on individual companies, is no longer sufficient to address the complex issues posed by these factors.

Anna Murgatroyd, Principal Investigator from the University of Oxford, in collaboration with the Environment Agency and Ofwat, is part of the National System Simulate Modelling (NSSM) project. As part of this, they developed a comprehensive Water Resource model for England and Wales (WREW) that integrates various water usage sectors and future scenarios to assess potential water shortages and solutions.

However, they are limited by the model's reliance on commercial software, and the Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis provides a way to address this limitation and aims to enhance the model's accessibility and usability for researchers and practitioners.

Resilience scenarios for integrated water systems (RIWS)

The resilience of water systems in the context of climate change, weather extremes, planning and operational decisions is crucial to water infrastructure service delivery and environmental management.

In the UK, water systems are under extreme pressure from exceptional droughts like in the Summer of 2022, or challenges to manage sewage spills. At the same time, the latest report on river water quality shows that only 14% of rivers in England meet good ecological status.

Therefore, there is a need to develop resilience assessment to address the challenges of water systems and the environment. This project (RIWS) led by Ana Mijic, Imperial College London, addresses a critical knowledge gap in resilience scenarios for integrated water systems for various stressors.

It also aims to develop scenarios that can provide evidence for water companies, planning authorities and environmental regulators on the feasibility of water systems adaptive planning when assessed by resilience metrics.

Sewer Overflow Flood Risk Analysis Model DAFNI Enabled (SOFRAMODE)

Vassilis Glenis from Newcastle University aims to develop and demonstrate a state-of-the-art platform on DAFNI for understanding and simulating urban drainage related to surface water flooding and high-profile storm overflow events, for any UK town or city.

The platform, underpinned by the CityCAT Urban Flood Model, will allow consultants, industry professionals, and researchers to design and assess strategies for mitigating overflow spills and flooding caused by rainfall events.

Additionally, the project aims to establish a flexible methodology for exploring resilience scenarios involving rainfall events and design constraints and make the model accessible to non-academic users through consultations and workshops.

STORMS: Strategies and Tools for Resilience of Buried Infrastructure to Meteorological Shocks

Buried infrastructure, which include cables and pipes vital to city and urban lives, are vulnerable to meteorological shocks or extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts. Such events can lead to soil movement, thermal contraction and expansion, sinkholes, and various other problems putting buried infrastructure at risk.

Despite the urgency to be prepared for these impacts, our understanding of what the UK's buried infrastructure can cope with remains poor, because existing risk assessment tools do not comprehensively consider impacts from these extreme weather events.

A new framework, led by Xilin Xia of the University of Birmingham in collaboration with the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the British Geological Survey, will be developed to understand the potential impacts of extreme weather events, and climate change on these infrastructures. Strategies to increase resilience will also be co-developed together with industry and other stakeholders. This will lead to fewer service disruptions, potential cost savings, and increased resilience of infrastructure systems in the face of meteorological shocks and climate change.

Building a secure and resilient world

Building a secure and resilient world, is one of UK Research and Innovation's five strategic themes. Through our five-year strategy Transforming Tomorrow Together, we aim to harness the full power of the UK's research and innovation system to tackle large-scale, complex challenges. 

Building a secure and resilient world encourages people to work across disciplines, to support communities and improve their ability to prevent and respond to threats in the real world and online. By putting people at the heart of new and existing research and innovation funding opportunities we're helping to make the world a safer place. 

Find out more at Building a secure and resilient world – UKRI.

Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis

In April 2023, DAFNI opened the Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis through a £4 million funding by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Scientific Computing Department.

The Centre will help ensure the UK for sudden impacts of extreme floods, water and food shortages, energy failures and other challenges.

The virtual Centre is an extension of the UKRI-funded DAFNI, which aims to improve the efficiency, reliability, and sustainability of infrastructure through data and analytics.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is part of UK Research and Innovation – the UK body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. For more information visit UK Research and Innovation.

STFC funds and supports research in particle and nuclear physics, astronomy, gravitational research and astrophysics, and space science and operates a network of five national laboratories, including the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the Daresbury Laboratory, as well as supporting UK research at a number of international research facilities including CERN, FERMILAB, the ESO telescopes in Chile and many more. Visit https://stfc.ukri.org/ for more information. @STFC_Matters

Contact: O'Sullivan, Marion (STFC,RAL,SC)