Budget statement brings welcome funding for Southampton-based research
Southampton and the wider region are set to benefit from major investment in the University of Southampton announced in the Chancellor’s Budget last week.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, announced a commitment to fund a Southampton centre as part of the £138M UK Collaboration for Research in Infrastructure & Cities network subject to a satisfactory business case and the provision of co-funding.
The government hopes that the UKCRIC will be a world-class national infrastructure research capability network with a central hub in London’s Olympic Park and further centres in Birmingham, Newcastle and Sheffield.
Southampton’s funding will go towards its £36M National Infrastructure Laboratory to be constructed at the Boldrewood Innovation Campus. The Laboratory will house state-of-the art equipment for developing new understandings of the behaviour of large structures and structural components, with an emphasis on the infrastructure, rail and maritime sectors. Rail transport will be a major focus, to meet challenges such as adaptation to the effects of climate change and more intensive use, smart maintenance and upgrade of existing infrastructure, and the cost-effective design and construction of new infrastructure.
Current work in this area is supported by a number of national and international industry partners including Network Rail, Mott MacDonald, National Grid, RWE Power, EDF, SSE, Thames Water, Southern Water and HS2.
Professor William Powrie, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, said “This significant funding for the University of Southampton is most welcome. It will enable us to complete the development of our Boldrewood Innovation Campus, and highlights the importance of our research in improving the environmental performance, resilience and cost-effectiveness of rail infrastructure in the UK and around the world. It will also enable us to educate more of the imaginative, high-quality engineers that the country so deserately needs.”
Southampton’s National Infrastructure Laboratory will link to the Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Infrastructure Systems and the EPSRC Track to the Future Programme Grant. Track to the Future involves academics from Southampton working with colleagues at the Universities of Birmingham, Huddersfield and Nottingham and industry to develop railway track systems that are efficient in terms of embodied carbon, materials use and cost; robust in requiring little maintenance; and unintrusive in producing little noise.
The Laboratory will also support the Strategic University Partnership (SUP) with Network Rail in Future Infrastructure Systems, a major EPSRC grant on track for high speed railways; participation in the EU Shift2Rail programme, and a key partnership in Infrastructure within the DfT/RSSB FutureRailway initiative.