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>About ISNGI 2021

International Symposium for Next Generation Infrastructure 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic impacts, and continues to impact, every aspect of our established ways of life. It has laid bare the risks and vulnerabilities that accompany the substantial global flows of people and goods. At the same time, it highlights how IT, telecommunication and social infrastructures contribute to societal resilience, enabling organisations to continue to function and friends and families to keep in touch. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights what we already know, that energy, water, transport, information, telecommunication and waste management services are all essential for the health and well-being of every citizen and for their participation in society and the economy and that the continued performance of these critical infrastructures cannot be taken for granted. The response to COVID-19 is also fundamentally challenging and reshaping existing infrastructure sectors and business models.

Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of next generation infrastructure is a key challenge for both developing and developed countries. Substantial investment is needed for the replacement and modernisation of legacy infrastructures and for new infrastructure development. At the same time, climate change, urbanisation and a changing social and geopolitical context are creating new challenges, for which established approaches to infrastructure system planning, design, governance, regulation, financing and so forth seem ill-equipped. The digitisation and datafication of infrastructure service provision are providing part of the answer, but they come at the disadvantage of increased system complexity, entailing new risks and vulnerabilities. While these and many other technological innovations will help us to meet the challenges of the future, technology is only part of the solution. The ongoing convergence of infrastructure systems in a tightly inter-connected system-of-systems requires us to reconsider not only the design of infrastructure, but also its governance.

The complexity of these challenges is unprecedented and aggravated by simultaneous changes occurring in the geopolitical landscape and in our daily routines induced by the Covid19 pandemic. A systemic rethink is needed, across multiple scales. The need to collaborate, cooperate and learn from one another and adopt a whole system approach is widely recognised by infrastructure practitioners. However, how we can align approaches to infrastructure governance, regulation and management with a system-of-systems perspective remains challenging. Even if the Covid19 pandemic leads to ambitions of more autonomy of certain systems and supply chains, the strong interdependencies between infrastructures will not be eradicated. A radical break with the established practice of siloed planning and governance is needed.

Major research programmes have been launched worldwide to address the challenges of providing infrastructure systems and services for the next generation. They combine knowledge development in the engineering and social sciences, invite contributions from the humanities, acknowledge the values embedded in the design and governance of infrastructure, and involve active collaboration between academic researchers and practitioners from government and industry. All these things are crucial if the knowledge they create is to impact society. At the same time, more and more infrastructure practitioners are actively engaged in cross-sector initiatives, which are equally crucial for the development of next generation infrastructures.

ISNGI 2021 provides a platform for infrastructure systems research and practice, especially for transdisciplinary research which seeks to conceptualize, enact and model an integrative approach and make a system-of-systems view to infrastructure operational. ISNGI 2021 invites contributions from leading academics, industry leaders and government representatives. In addition to showcasing academic research results, ISNGI 2021 will provide a platform for interaction, for dialogue, for exchanging knowledge and experience across disciplines, across infrastructure sectors and across national borders. The vision of ISNGI is to ensure the best and sharpest minds from industry, government and academia collectively inform strategies to meet the next generation infrastructure challenges.

ISNGI is co-organized by two distinguished knowledge initiatives: the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), and the Netherlands national knowledge platform for Next Generation Infrastructures (NGinfra). Both share the ambition to understand how to ensure national infrastructure system of systems enable the outcomes demanded by the citizens they serve in a way that is affordable, equitable, sustainable and intrinsically resilient to the disruptive impacts of extreme events and other long-term strategic challenges.

ISNGI 2021 will convene at the Ahoy Conference Centre, in the heart of the dynamic city of Rotterdam. Rotterdam is bustling with art, design and innovative businesses. The city boasts Europe’s largest seaport, inspiring modern architecture and innovative redevelopments of docks and neighbourhoods. Rotterdam is also home to the borough of Delfshaven, once a port of the Dutch East India Company, and the port from which the Pilgrim Fathers set sail to the New World on the Mayflower. Rotterdam presents us with an abundance of historic infrastructure and modern, state-of-the-art infrastructure. A tour of the port and the city’s highlights will be organized as part of the symposium programme. The programme will also include topical case studies from the city of Rotterdam, combined with site visits, to encourage debate and solicit innovative ideas.

In all our efforts, we must keep in mind that infrastructure is not a goal in itself. It is about the provision of essential services to all members of society, about ensuring the affordability, reliability and acceptability of these services, and about respecting values like fairness and justice in the way these services are provided. Infrastructure is crucial for the quality of life, and for the quality of living together. Infrastructure is a means to the end of an inclusive and prosperous society for generations to come.

We are looking forward to meeting you at ISNGI 2021 to help shape the next generation of infrastructure.

On behalf of the ISNGI 2021 Academic Programme Committee, UKCRIC and NGinfra,

Professor Brian Collins & Professor Margot Weijnen

University of London