Infrastructure research

Find out about the work we are doing to investigate infrastructure issues in society.


We have a group of academic researchers working on infrastructure issues. They use SPRU’s expertise in innovation and policy to understand the governance and development of critical infrastructure sectors and services, internationally and in the UK. At a time when infrastructure provision and investment is receiving regional, national and global political attention our research aims to understand how infrastructure can deliver better value for society in a sustainable way. We consider ways to improve decision-making to reflect the growing demand for infrastructure investment and the increasingly interconnected nature of infrastructure across scales and sectors.

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SPRU’s research in infrastructure forms part of several flagship interdisciplinary projects: the International Centre for Infrastructure Futures, The UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium, and Multi-scale InfraSTRucture systems AnaLytics, which all proactively engage with policy makers, industry and other stakeholders to improve understanding and decision making in infrastructure governance.

International Centre for Infrastructure Futures project

As part of the International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF) research consortium, Professor Paul Nightingale, Dr Ralitsa Hiteva and Dr Kat Lovell are analysing business models for infrastructure development and delivery. This work involves understanding the contributions business model ideas can offer to policy and business within infrastructure sectors, and analysing developments in different infrastructure sectors to understand peculiarities and variety within infrastructure development. Case studies are being conducted in the electricity and railway sectors to map value creation and capture in each sector and how they have changed over time.

ICIF aims to create new ways of bringing together stakeholders involved in renewing the UK’s infrastructure to exploit structured, multidisciplinary systemic thinking about infrastructure interdependencies when developing new business models. ICIF aims to inspire a broader national debate about the future of the UK's infrastructure, and how it might contribute towards a more sustainable, economically vibrant, and fair society.

UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium project

The UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC) works to develop a new generation of infrastructure system simulation models and tools to inform the analysis, planning and design of National Infrastructure. Professor Jim Watson and Dr Ralitsa Hiteva were part of the ITRC team that investigated the governance of interactions between infrastructure sectors and infrastructure sectors in transition.

ITRC’s ambition is to provide a basis for cross-sectoral and long-term decision-making for infrastructure planning, design and operation, with its models and tools being taken up in the UK and adapted internationally.

MISTRAL programme

At the beginning of 2017 ITRC was awarded £5.3 million of funding from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council for another five years of research. The aim of the Multi-scale InfraSTRucture systems AnaLytics (MISTRAL) programme is to develop and demonstrate a highly integrated analytics capability to inform strategic infrastructure decision-making across scales, from local to global. SPRU researchers involved in MISTRAL; Professor Jim Watson, Dr Ralitsa Hiteva and Dr Kat Lovell will examine the complex governance arrangements that inform a multi-scale systems perspective and explore governance arrangements across scales. This work will focus on national (UK), devolved administrations (e.g. Scottish and Welsh governments), local governance (including local authorities and other actors such as Local Economic Partnerships), and international (primarily the European Union). We will identify key tensions and synergies in current governance arrangements and assess recent changes, as well as proposals for future reform. The researchers will work with key governance actors (government, regulators and infrastructure providers), to explore how systems analysis can be embedded into practical decision-making.


Our research team regularly contributes to a wide range of consultations and written evidence submissions in the UK:

  • Edkins, A., Carhart, N., Dolan, T. and Hiteva, R. March 2016, contributed to ICIF response to the National Infrastructure Commission: Consultation
  • Hiteva, R., Foxon, T., Nightingale, P. and Mackerron, G., Response to the Parliamentary Energy and Climate Change Committee inquiry into Low carbon network infrastructure, November 2015
  • Hiteva, R., Maltby, T. and Davisdescu, S., Response to the European Union Committee Energy and Environment Sub-Committee’s Call for Evidence on EU Energy Governance, October 2015
  • Hiteva, R. and M. Workman, September 2015, Enhancing governance of energy and water interdependencies, policy note based on 3 policy and industry workshops in 2014 and 2015
  • Sussex Energy Group (including Hiteva, R., Nightingale, P., and Lovell, K.), Response to Ofgem’s discussion paper on ‘Non-traditional business models: Supporting transformative change in the energy market, May 2015


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