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Session 2B: Smart and Integrated Infrastructure for Societally Beneficial Outcomes

Session 2B: Smart and Integrated Infrastructure for Societally Beneficial Outcomes

Smart and Integrated Infrastructure for Societally Beneficial Outcomes –  An exploration of the purpose of, need for, value of, Smart and Integrated Infrastructure.

Special session organized by Tom Dolan (UKCRIC and CDICE, UCL),  Ralitsa Hiteva (SPRU, Univ. of Sussex) and Katherine Lovell (SPRU, Univ. of Sussex), host John Voppen, member NGinfra board

Chair: Dr Tom Dolan

Provocations by: Dr. Ralitsa Hiteva, Dr Kat Lovell,

Discussants: Dr. Ralitsa Hiteva, Dr Kat Lovell, Dr Carla Washbourne, Dr Lewis Makana


  • Sustainable infrastructures and public policy: educating the next generation of innovators; Dr. Carla Washbourne, University College London
  • Infrastructure and urban systems as drivers of equity, inclusion and social justice ; Dr. Lewis Makana, University of Birmingham

Sustainable infrastructures and public policy: educating the next generation of innovators

Dr. Jenny McArthur, Dr. Carla Washbourne, University College London.

Policy decisions have a huge impact on the future sustainability of global infrastructure and the decision-making space is becoming increasingly complex in light of climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion and social pressures. Across the 20th century, infrastructure decision-making was dominated by various technical disciplines including engineering, planning and economics, and their implicit values and principles. While governments directly decide on policy settings relating to ownership and institutional arrangements, regulation, financing and funding, these settings are often taken in isolation from the planning, design, operations and maintenance of infrastructures. 

However, to date little attention has been given to developing higher education programmes to equip those working in infrastructure policy with the necessary knowledge, skill and aptitudes to grapple with this increasingly complex topic.

There is a growing interest in, and focus on, policy from the ‘supply side’ of the infrastructure industry and universities, learned societies, and policy institutions themselves, are increasingly recognising a need for policy literacy across a wide range of system actors. The development of a professionally oriented, masters-level programme – the Master’s of Public Administration in Sustainable Infrastructures and Public Policy – at University College London, was one response to this escalating interest and expressed need.

This contribution to ISNGI 2022 provides an introduction to the programme structure and pedagogical approach, reflecting on the challenges and insights encountered during its first year of implementation. The programme describes is mission as being: to prepare the next generation of leaders and decision-makers to tackle complex infrastructure challenges, from mitigating climate change and developing clean energy to expanding green infrastructures and improving integrated transport networks. It seeks to ensure that graduates gain the tools, practical skills and knowledge to develop robust infrastructure policies to align infrastructure investment with economic, social and environmental goals.

The experience of developing this programme provides a useful lens through which to test ideas and to grapple with understanding the personal and professional knowledge and skills required for successful engagements in infrastructure policy settings and consider possible futures of education in this area. We will continue to engage a wide range of issues and actors in its ongoing evolution.

Infrastructure and urban systems as drivers of equity, inclusion and social justice

Dr. Lewis Makana, Dr. Joanne Leach, Dr. Marianna Cavada, Prof. Chris Rogers, University of Birmingham

One of the most significant issues facing global urban centres (towns or cities) striving for sustainability and resilience involves the issue of liveability framed by equity, inclusion and social justice. A question that sits at the heart of this is whether everyone shares in, or benefits from, an urban centre’s liveability efforts? The benefits include opportunities for economic prosperity, societal improvements and environmental and cultural enhancement. The question extends to affordable access to infrastructure and urban system services, such as housing, transport and mobility systems, and whether certain aspects of a city’s functions and services are available to all people or only some, whether due to cost, proximity or other factors. Since developing liveability policies and actions should be community effort, it stands to reason that all citizens should benefit from the various policies and actions, and yet does this happen in practice; and if not, why not?

These concerns form the focus of this paper, which will present the emerging findings of work undertaken in support of one of four scientific missions directing the research strategy of UKCRIC: the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities. The mission in question, which shares the title of this paper, aims to provide the underpinning transdisciplinary research platform for forging healthy, happy and productive lives for all through urban design, planning, policy and infrastructure. It brings into focus problem-specific societal challenges that require many different sectors to interact to create effective solutions. This focus on problems, rather than on sectors, means that solutions geared towards infrastructure and urban systems (IUS) can be applied to multiple challenges faced by society and will be demonstrated here through six key enablers of: (1) improving urban liveability for all: consciously putting people at the heart of IUS decision-making; (2) understanding system networks and interdependencies for IUS at all scales; (3) supporting levelling up agendas by making IUS affordable and accessible for all; (4) working with end users of IUS to co-create effective system interventions; (5) ensuring digital twinning activity for IUS recognises the issue and does not default to traditional modelling paradigms that would tend to perpetuate the current ways in which cities operate; and (6) engaging with smart city agendas to make IUS truly smart rather than simply more efficient.