Our national infrastructure - the systems of infrastructure networks (e.g. energy, water, transport, waste, ICT) that support services such as healthcare, education, emergency response and thereby ensure our social, economic and environmental wellbeing - faces a multitude of challenges. A growing population, modern economy and proliferation of new technologies have placed increased and new demands on infrastructure services and made infrastructure networks increasingly inter-connected. Meanwhile, investment has not kept up with the pace of change leaving many components at the end of their life. Moreover, global environmental change necessitates reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved resilience to extreme events, implying major reconfigurations of these infrastructure systems. Addressing these challenges is further complicated by fragmented, often reactive, regulation and governance arrangements. Existing business models are  often considered by the Treasury Select Committee to provide poor value but few proven alternative models exist for mobilising finance, particularly in the current economic climate.

Continued delivery of our civil infrastructure, particularly given current financial constraints, will require innovative and integrated thinking across engineering, economic and social sciences. If the process of addressing these issues is to take place efficiently, whilst also minimising associated risks, it will need to be underpinned by an appropriate multi-disciplinary approach that brings together engineering, economic and social science expertise to understand infrastructure financing, valuation and interdependencies under a range of possible futures. The evidence that must form the basis for such a strategic approach does not yet exist. To achieve this, i-BUILD brings together three UK universities with world-leading track records in engineering, economics and social sciences; a portfolio of pioneering inter-disciplinary research; and the research vision and capacity to deliver a multi-disciplinary analysis of innovative business models around infrastructure interdependencies.

While national scale infrastructure plans, projects and procedures set the wider agenda, it is at the scale of neighbourhoods, towns and cities that infrastructure is most dense and interdependencies between infrastructures, economies and society are most profound – and hence the focus of our activity will be at these local and urban scales. Balancing growth across regions and scales is crucial to the success of the national economy. The Government’s response to Lord Heseltine’s review of local economic growth (March 2013) emphasised the devolution of funding for local major infrastructure schemes that is occurring from 2015, the importance of the development of an integrated approach to local infrastructure investment and also noted the requirement for alternative funding models. This localism agenda is encouraging local agents to develop new infrastructure related business but this is limited by the lack of robust new business models with which to do so at the local and urban scale.