An infrastructure evolution – The NIA: A transformative opportunity for UK infrastructure

By Dr Ralitsa Hiteva, Research Fellow at SPRU (University of Sussex)

A new policy brief discussing the transformative potential of the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) has been published by the SPRU Infrastructure team. The key message of the policy brief is that – to realise its transformative potential – the NIA needs to be based on a forward-looking, innovative and systemic approach. It advocates developing a systemic approach building on interdependence, and a systemic NIA methodology.

The brief responds to the UK government and industry agenda on creating a more strategic vision for UK infrastructure and introducing more coordination between different infrastructure institutions, projects and objectives. The National Infrastructure Commission was set up in January 2016 to analyse the UK’s long-term economic infrastructure needs, outline a strategic vision over a 30-year time horizon and set out recommendations for how identified needs should begin to be met, through the publication of a NIA once per Parliament. This policy brief summarises the key points from the ICIF response to the NIA consultation submitted on 5th August 2016.

The objectives Government has set for the NIC will require the criteria against which infrastructure decisions are evaluated to be broadened. This will involve shifting from solely driving economic growth to include a focus on understanding and enabling desired outcomes, managing infrastructure as an interdependent system, and strategically planning infrastructure in the UK to:

  • foster long-term and sustainable economic growth across all regions of the UK
  • improve the UK’s international competitiveness
  • improve the quality of life for those living in the UK

The policy brief, presented to an audience of 100 policy makers, industry representatives and academics at the ICIF Infrastructure Grand Challenges Research Exhibition and Networking Forum on the 21st February 2017 in London, is based on insights gained from research carried out within the International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF) project between 2013 and February 2017. Dr. Ralitsa Hiteva (SPRU) was part of the multidisciplinary team that outlined key steps in developing an inclusive strategic vision for infrastructure for the UK through a new governance mechanism for infrastructure: the NIA.

The International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF) is an interdisciplinary, practice-orientated research centre conducting fundamental research on infrastructure interdependency, policy, innovation, regulation, management and financing. ICIF was created to identify what combinations of actors, regulations and technologies can provide for the effective planning, design, investment, construction, delivery and use of infrastructure services that underpin economic activity and improve citizens’ quality of life within modern societies. ICIF brings together leading academics from six UK universities: University College London, Cranfield University and the Universities of Bristol, Brighton, Sussex and Southampton. It is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant reference: EP/K012347/1).

Download the policy brief: The National Infrastructure Assessment: A Transformative Opportunity For UK Infrastructure [PDF 749KB]

Policy brief authors:

Dr Ralitsa Hiteva – Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex.

Dr Tom Dolan – Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP), University College London.

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