The University of Southampton will play a defining role in the future of British infrastructure after the National Infrastructure Laboratory was officially opened at Boldrewood Innovation Campus on 27 September.
As one of the fourteen UK universities in the Collaboratorium for Research Infrastructure and Cities, Southampton was seen as the ideal location for the new project, funded for by £47 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS), and project partners.
It has been estimated that infrastructure inadequacies cost the UK economy £2 million each day, and the new laboratory aims to ensure that future projects are fit for the long-term challenges of the modern world, including the changing climate which will result in longer spells of hot, dry weather and lengthy periods of heavy rain.
The durability of much proposed infrastructure will be tested in the Large Structures Testing Laboratory, a four-metre deep reinforced concrete floor, designed to trial railway tracks, bridge beams, and wind turbine blades.
Dr William Powrie, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at the University, said, ‘[i]nfrastructure and urban systems underpin modern life. Our new facilities, which will be open to researchers from around the world, will support research to ensure that our infrastructure is affordable, adaptable, resilient and transformational. Our research in rail infrastructure has underpinned innovation and design improvements for several years. Decarbonisation of the infrastructure and the way we use it, to help avert the climate catastrophe, will be a major goal‘.
Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail who officially opened the new building, praised its potential to increase the durability of train systems in the face of extreme weather, citing the possible benefit of ‘reduce[d]infrastructure failures and downtime for repairs, and reduce[d]cost to the taxpayer of maintenance‘.