3.1.4 Resilient nation: Enabling adaptable solutions

Being a resilient nation means meeting every citizen's needs in three areas: provision of sustainably managed resources, provision of reliable infrastructure and protection against natural and man-made threats. The key is to bring together the right research, innovation and people to develop integrated solutions that anticipate, adapt and respond to change.

We deliver new products, processes and technologies that ensure the reliability of UK infrastructure, underpin energy security and enable timely, effective responses to acute cyber, financial, health, defence and other threats.

As part of UKRI, we will enhance the existing multidisciplinary approach needed to meet the challenges of resilience by, for example, working with ESRC to ensure our research is grounded in behavioural science research, working with IUK to facilitate the knowledge exchange that allows autonomous systems and battery technology to be taken to market, and working with NERC to enable improved monitoring and modelling of climate change and air quality.

To deliver this priority, EPSRC will invest in:

Engineering responses to changes in the environment: Utilising the mathematical modelling, digital tools and technological solutions to adapt to and mitigate against climate change events and effects.

Enabling the transition to low-carbon heat: Addressing the major challenges identified by BEIS, by developing new ultra-low-carbon heating and cooling solutions across different sectors through the deployment of novel technologies and business models.

Developing future transport solutions, as part of our Future of Mobility Grand Challenge: Developing solutions using engineering and physical sciences research across modalities to improve transport system effectiveness, reducing delays, failures and carbon emissions.

Preparing systems to withstand extreme events: Utilising solutions to achieve security in UK infrastructure systems which ensure maintenance of production and supply.

Long-term ambitions

We will work with our UKRI partners to ensure that technical, environmental and social solutions to resilience challenges draw upon work on mathematical models, digital tools and wider engineering and physical sciences technologies. Our long-term aspiration is to ensure that:

  • our resilience portfolio informs and is informed by UKRI's international development strategy and activities, with success reflected in the number of our investments that help tackle significant policy challenges identified in international as well as UK strategies
  • the products of our investment inform and influence policy and strategy, and lead to regulation in construction, finance, urban/city planning, risk management, utility management, cyber-security and other areas. Success will be reflected by regulatory bodies drawing directly on our research as a source of evidence and a means of remediation. Collaboration with ESRC is widely relevant here and is already manifested in ISCF partnerships
  • across UKRI, government and regulatory bodies, there is a better understanding of a whole-systems approach and its benefits, including the human dimension of resilience. Success will be reflected in the growth of a new generation of experts who can build a resilient nation by embracing the provision of robust evidence, analytical and diagnostic approaches and effective translation of research into real-world solutions.

Near-term actions

In 2019-20 we will:

  • provide engineering (sensors and wireless systems) and ICT (through mathematical modelling and analytics) research, in collaboration with NERC science, to deliver the £8 million Signals in the Soil call funded through the UKRI Fund for International Collaboration as part of a UKRI-NSF joint research activity
  • enable multidisciplinary research and communitybuilding, focusing on calls in decarbonising heating/cooling (£8 million), decarbonising transport (£4 million), and end-use energy demand (up to £10 million), and on the Supergen Programme, which includes sustainable hydrogen production activities (up to £8 million) align our fellowship priority areas to real-world resilience challenges in decarbonising heat, decarbonising transport and resilient energy systems (£2 million)
  • work with UKRI partners and the Home Office to establish an independent body to convene and coordinate stakeholders from across the research, public and private sectors to connect the justice system with high-quality science, enabling collaboration and identifying emerging areas to explore. Work with our partners to determine the body's scope, set terms of reference, and convene stakeholders representing all parts of the justice system and set a forward plan for the group
  • deliver with colleagues across UKRI (lead Council in bold): Strategic Priorities Fund: Clean Air: Analysis and Solutions (NERC, Met Office, EPSRC, MRC, ESRC, IUK, NPL: £19.6 million); Climate Resilience (NERC, Met Office, EPSRC, ESRC, AHRC: £18.7 million) and Landscape Decisions (NERC, ESRC, BBSRC, AHRC, EPSRC: £10.5 million).
    Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (all with IUK): Faraday Battery Challenge; (EPSRC: £246 million); Prospering from the Energy Revolutions (EPSRC, ESRC, NERC, STFC: £102.5 million) and Transforming Construction (EPSRC, ESRC £170 million).

Case study

Keeping data safe and secure

Our investments in fundamental quantum research are enabling the UK to develop quantum technologies offering groundbreaking opportunities in areas such as cyber-security. For example, supported by the Quantum Communications Hub, EPSRC-funded researchers at the University of Bristol founded KETS Quantum Security, a firm at the forefront of quantum-secured encryption technology. The company is developing futureproof, cost-effective technologies for quantum-secured communications, based on integrated optical encryption, which can improve secure transmission of data such as banking details and medical records. It was one of three SMEs that recently won a major venture capital competition led by BT, the Telecom Infra Project and Facebook; as a result, the company will have access to investors with funds totalling £125 million, enabling it to work towards large-scale adoption of quantum encryption in a multitude of applications including defence, telecoms and critical infrastructure.