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NIC looks to industry to help inform its technology study

Businesses have been urged to identify the technologies they believe can improve the way infrastructure is operated in the long term to help inform a study being undertaken by the UK's National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

The NIC will later this year begin a technology study that it has been asked to undertake by the UK government. It has opened a call for evidence (9-page / 93KB PDF), seeking stakeholder views on how that study should be shaped.

In its paper, the NIC said it wants to "focus on the technologies that are likely to present the greatest opportunity to improving the operation and management of the UK’s infrastructure over a 10 - 30 year time horizon". It said it is "particularly interested in focusing on the transformative opportunities presented by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, big data, the internet of things and sensing".

It said it would be keen to hear from stakeholders on how individual technologies might "improve infrastructure productivity", and what aspects of the management of infrastructure the technology could address, such as its "operation, maintenance, efficiency, capacity, reliability or resilience".

The NIC said it would also be eager to hear evidence on how the uptake of new technology could "reduce demand for pressurised services such as transport, energy and water" and whether there are already "case studies of deployment or demonstration in other sectors, or internationally".

Among the other information the NIC is keen to gather is views from stakeholders on the "principal challenges and barriers which need to be addressed to enable the maximum uptake of the technology". It also wants to know whether introducing new technology would "imply major changes to existing infrastructure, require new infrastructure, or [whether it would] fit with existing infrastructure", or even "make previous infrastructure redundant".

The technology study was requested by UK chancellor Philip Hammond in November last year. He asked the NIC to "conduct a study to identify which new technologies have the greatest potential for improving the productivity of our infrastructure, and what steps government should take to support the deployment of these technologies".

The NIC is due to set out its recommendations to government before the end of 2017.

Lord Adonis, interim chair of the NIC, said: "From big data to the internet of things, and artificial intelligence to digitalisation, new technologies are reshaping our infrastructure and our country. If the UK is to succeed in the global economy of the future, we have to ensure that we are harnessing innovative new technologies to maximum effect."

"This study will explore which new technologies have the most potential for improving the way we manage our infrastructure. So through this call for evidence we want to hear views from across industry, politics and the public, from infrastructure specialists, to developers of new technologies. This work is timely and vital - if we don’t position ourselves at the forefront of technological innovation, our competitors will," he said.

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