The construction industry lags other sectors in adoption of technology and innovation and the bridge industry is no exception to this. To meet future demands, it is essential that we make our bridges more reliable, affordable, sustainable and accessible for future generations. By embracing innovation and embedding technology we will be able to fully exploit opportunities to better manage our aging infrastructure and to build better and more resilient bridges fit for the future.

We live in a fast-changing world of new and competing technologies. Opportunities abound, but the challenge is to choose wisely those ideas which best build on existing resources and best support asset management. We must recognise the potential value of technology which may not be fully ‘tried and tested’ whilst maintaining safety and value.

The diverse nature of bridge owners makes a consistent approach difficult, but through planned innovation involving collaboration and partnership we can realise the benefits of smarter, more cost effective, asset management supported by better informed decision making.

Our existing infrastructure is the foundation for economic development. Innovation and technology are the essential enablers that will ensure we can manage and adapt our structures to face the demands of the 21st century and beyond.

Key Facts

  • The profession must embrace digital technology, and Civil Engineers should develop these rapidly evolving skills. ICE Professional Skills Review, July 2019
  • Queensferry Crossing incorporates around 200 digital sensors measuring temperature, movement, corrosion, etc (ICE Proceedings, Bridge Engineering, May 2019)
  • According to a report by PwC detailing for the first time the possible financial benefits of BIM, the implementation of BIM Level 2 could save the government£400m a year
  • We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate, (Kurzweil 2001)
  • The UK Government Industrial Strategy sets out four Grand Challenges: Artificial Intelligence and data, Ageing Society, Clean Growth and Future of Mobility
    (UK Government, Sept 2019)

Priority Areas for Development

  • Effective use of data in understanding and managing bridge performance
  • Use of BIM in management of structures
  • Application of new technologies to bridges – survey, sensors, new/smart materials,
  • Technology transfer between industries
  • Sensor technology and application of Internet of Things
  • Demonstration projects
  • Collaboration between industry and academia
  • Common processes and standards that facilitate innovation and continuous improvement
  • Specification of needs to allow partners to develop innovative solutions
  • Guidance on new techniques and technologies