"It always seems impossible until it's done" Nelson Mandela

This year's focus

In 2018 the Resilience Shift will focus on accelerating theory into practice, on sector inter-dependencies and how they affect resilience outcomes, and on interpreting and adding clarity to key concepts.

Additionally the agenda setting work of year 1 (set out below) pointed us in the direction of translating learning from one sector to another and of working towards investment frameworks and standards for resilience.

How did we start?

The Resilience Shift was was set up in 2016 to address the recommendations of the Lloyd's Register Foundation Foresight review of resilience engineering, delivered in partnership with Arup.

Expected outcomes

Six outcomes have been set as the indicators of a successful change in mindset, education and practice, which would demonstrate a resilience shift as regards critical infrastructure:

1.Common understanding of sectors as global systems and the effect that decisions within these sectors have on the resilience of society.

2.The adoption of dynamic, performance-based (resilience-based) design approaches in broad practice.

3.The adoption or use of tools to value resilience and to make sure that resilience value is realized across the project life cycle.

4.The use of integrated systems approaches as context for critical infrastructure systems.

5.Integration of systems thinking and resilience concepts into the education and understanding of those responsible for planning, designing, delivering, regulating and operating critical infrastructure.

6.Adoption of transformative technologies that facilitate (rather than compromise) critical system functionality.

Year 1 – setting up the programme

In the first year, our key activities have included mobilisation of the programme, agenda setting, establishing the programme’s identity, and creating the conditions necessary for effective delivery. The initial call for proposals was launched in January 2017, and the first projects started in March 2017.

What have we learned so far?

We have carried out a significant amount of research to test the proposals and outcomes of the programme, and inform its future approach.

  • There is a growing body of academic work but we are clear that resilience must now move from theory to practice, building in learning loops to document, inform and improve education, practice and outcomes.
  • There are many professional routes to resilience and we need to be mindful of building on best practice and specific sector expertise. However, the scope and parameters for infrastructure projects will need to broaden if we are to include resilience considerations from the outset.
  • There are good reasons for classic engineering approaches which consider single assets not systems, and require design to fixed thresholds. For many decades, these approaches were more than good enough, with the obvious evidence being that where best practices are followed, structures and infrastructure generally do not fail.
  • Engineering for the future has traditionally been based on past events and past performance. It uses sound statistical and probabilistic approaches based on historic observations, as well as modelling and expert opinion. The difference is that we live in a much more complex, interdependent world and we must design for a diverse and uncertain future.
  • Design, construction and operation of critical infrastructure requires decisions to be made in the face of multiple known and unknown hazards and highly uncertain cost estimates. This requires an adaptive approach in design and engineering practice.


What do we mean by resilience in this context?

The resilience of critical infrastructure is about its functionality, its ability to continue to provide critical services, protect or connect communities, enabling the flow of goods, services, people and knowledge. We have adopted a set of resilience characteristics that we think fits best for the purpose of understanding resilience in critical infrastructure in practice.

Success would mean that critical infrastructure can:

  • Withstand and endure (safe failure)
  • Recover (appropriately prompt recovery)
  • Adapt (and have adaptive capacity)
  • Transform (and knowing when it is time to)

Risk vs resilience and known hazards vs deep uncertainty are fundamental tensions challenging current practice.

We believe that resilience is about complexity and systems thinking and requires a different approach to traditional, complicated engineering problems. Human factors and the understanding of socio-technical systems are therefore critical.


What do we mean by 'critical infrastructure' in this context?

Critical Infrastructure Services

Our research suggests that critical infrastructure is a common term used broadly by different organisations and countries, thereby reinforcing the significance of infrastructure in society.

A clear majority of the critical infrastructure definitions focus on the services that are enabled by critical infrastructure, highlighting that they are considered critical based on the consequence of its failure, which would create a significant impact to human life, economic activity and/or national security.

A failure in this context should be understood as a system which is prevented from continuing to perform its function - as opposed to the failure of a physical asset, which is understood as a damage or loss.