Video: Professor Lord Mair, Cambridge University

Investment in research and development must increase across the sector if we are meet the challenge of 21st century infrastructure in an age of austerity and reduced public funding, says Professor Lord Robert Mair.

Embracing smart technology is key to the future of management and delivery of infrastructure and the UK must ramp its levels of investment in research and technolgy to stay at the cutting edge, says Cambridge University's Professor Robert Mair.

Speaking at the recent ACOonAir Highways Hangout at the Highways UK event in London, Lord Mair pointed out that the UK is still behind the curve when it comes to investing in innovation.

"We are not spending enough [on research and development],"  he said. "We are fortunate at Cambridge that the government put £10M into our project and industry put in another £7M. That has been a substantial amount to really get things going and we have 40 industry partners and 80 site demonstrations. Government has done a good job to pump prime – but it is over to the industry to take it on."

Mair runs the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) at Cambridge which he says is all about demonstrating new technologies in construction and trialling them, proving they work, overcoming the problems and then getting them adopted.

"If you build in sensors you can afford not to be so conservative and so robust [with your design] and so reduce considerably the capital cost at the expense of having a planned maintenance throughout the structure’s life based on what you measure,"  he said. "The main driver comes from the client – if they are not saying they want innovation then it won’t happen."

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