Funding seeks to drive national resilience to future threats

The UK is to pump more money into its efforts to enhance the ability to respond to global challenges including climate change, increased energy demands and infrastructure growth.

The funding, from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will further develop the Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI) facility, which was launched yesterday.

DAFNI has been described by government officials as set to revolutionise infrastructure research across the UK.

DAFNI is located at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.

Scientists using DAFNI will be able to build on its commitment to changing and sustainable infrastructure needs for major projects.

DAFNI is a specially designed computational platform hosted and managed by STFC that enables researchers to collaborate and gain faster results using:
• different data sources
• high performance computing
• data analytics
• data visualisations
• the ability to link results from different computer models.
The new funding is part of the EPSRC Resource-Only Strategic Equipment (ROSE) fund and will enable DAFNI to:
• increase its user base across current and additional universities across the UK
• improve skills and develop the next generation of infrastructure engineers through centres for doctoral training and other opportunities
• underpin the development of a digital blueprint of the UK’s infrastructure services, for example, transport, water, energy, environment and digital communications
• encourage multidisciplinary research across infrastructure sectors and research areas
• develop partnerships between government and industry.

It will also look at area such as large scale engineering simulations, fusion energy, frontier space, bio-simulations and artificial intelligence.

STFC’s Scientific Data Centre provides UK scientists with the tools to interpret and manage the huge amounts of data generated by research.

The UK government recently announced a £17 million investment to enable researchers to harness the full power of modern digital platforms, tools and techniques, including net zero computing.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said: “There is a continuous need for the UK to adapt to changing environments and plan for the infrastructure demands of the future.

“With major investment in infrastructure planned for the coming years it is crucial that we make the best possible decisions about how to meet the needs of communities across the UK.

“DAFNI has a major role to play by providing the high-quality data and analytical tools needed to design infrastructure that works with everyone and for everyone. It is a prime example of how transformative technologies can be harnessed to support an inclusive and sustainable knowledge economy.”

Professor Jim Hall, Chair of the DAFNI governance board, added: “Following four years of development, the DAFNI platform is now ready to deliver game-changing computational and data services to the community researching into infrastructure systems, allowing more complex and more detailed modelling to take place in universities across the UK, helping to inform government policy at local and national model, on areas from decisions on housing stock type and size to new road and transport links, flood defences and climate change mitigation measures.

“It allows researchers in fields such as transport, energy, population and flooding to more quickly and accurately analyse and research questions such as: how can we protect a city centre from river flooding, where should we site a new railway station, how can we better model climate and environmental impacts on our economy, society and infrastructure?”

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