The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has been announced as a member of a £16 million consortium designed to drive innovation across major infrastructure projects in the UK.
The Transport Infrastructure Efficient Strategy Lab (TIES Living Lab) was recently launched by Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Andrew Stephenson.
TIES Living Lab is a transformative collaboration aimed at harnessing the vast quantities of intelligence that UK infrastructure projects generate in order to drive down delivery times, reduce carbon emissions and improve safety and skills for construction workers.
Over the next two years the partnership will invest more than £16 million in new tools, processes and data systems – bringing together infrastructure and industry leaders with business and academic institutions to build on, and establish, best practice in the way we design, build and integrate innovations within transport assets.
UWE Bristol will receive £1.2 million to investigate four key areas that can improve efficiency and quality within the construction industry: artificial intelligence data mining, advanced logistics, conversational artificial intelligence and quality assurance.
As part of the initiative, the team of UWE Bristol researchers led by Professor Lamine Mahdjoubi will develop a semi-automated system that can translate costings provided by various parties into a standardised format, such as the international construction measurement standard. This will allow an improved understanding of costs and performance through benchmarking. The team is also developing a state-of-the-art advanced logistics system based on digital twin technology to revolutionise modern methods of construction and improve productivity.
Dr Mahdjoubi, Professor of Digital Built Environment and Director of the Centre of Architecture and Built Environment Research at UWE Bristol, said: ‘‘With private and public money tighter than ever, now is the time to examine how efficiencies can be introduced to the infrastructure and construction sectors. We must find better ways of delivering high quality, cost-effective projects that also offer social value and are better for the environment.
‘‘For years we have found it difficult to forecast the real cost and time to deliver an infrastructure project while clients have lacked the tools to accurately benchmark tenders and select projects which offer the best value.
‘‘Drawing upon a range of expertise from within UWE Bristol and utilising innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence and digital twin, my team and I look forward to being part of the TIES Living Lab project and developing tools and processes which can revolutionise how the infrastructure and construction sectors in the UK operate.’’
In his keynote address, Minister Stephenson highlighted the need for a laser-like focus on ensuring infrastructure investment is used to its full potential.
Minister of State Andrew Stephenson said: “As we begin our green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the need to level-up our country and boost economic prosperity has only increased – and we are determined that we don’t just rebuild, we rebuild smarter.
“The Living Lab is a great opportunity for industry and academics to work together to embrace new, more productive, more efficient and more sustainable ways of delivering transport infrastructure.”
By identifying and tackling systemic issues that obstruct the innovations in construction, it is hoped that this first-of-its-kind programme will be a catalyst for cultural change. TIES Living Lab comprises of 31 strategic partners, including 25 consortium members.