Written evidence submitted by CReDo
The National Digital Twin programme welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy’s call for evidence for the Critical National Infrastructure and Climate Adaptation Inquiry. The National Digital Twin programme (NDTp) came into being as a result of the National Infrastructure Commission’s report Data for the public good. In July 2018, HM Government tasked the Centre for Digital Built Britain to take the National Digital Twin programme forward. The National Digital Twin programme has since set out the Information Management Framework (IMF) approach to sharing data across organisations and sectors and has set up a Climate Resilience Demonstrator project (CReDo) to demonstrate how digitalisation and data sharing across sectors can increase climate resilience. Both the IMF and CReDo are referenced in this response.
The response is submitted in conjunction with Connected Places Catapult and with support from Anglian Water, BT and UK Power Networks who are participating in CReDo.
This response addresses the effectiveness of Government policy, legislation and implementation frameworks for managing national security risks arising from climate change (point 3) and describes the opportunities presented by technological solutions (such as AI and digital twins) for anticipating and managing the implications of climate change for CNI (point 7).
Government is structured into departments that can make it difficult to solve problems which span sectors such as resilience. A systems-thinking approach to governance, policy and regulation can help to tackle large-scale problems which are not sector specific and can unlock innovation.
Government requirements for integrated CNI design and resilience planning will require data sharing between infrastructure operators and across government departments and regulators. Adopting a common approach to data sharing across industry, government and academia as envisaged in Data for the public good will facilitate this. The Information Management Framework as referenced in the National Infrastructure Strategy and Transforming Infrastructure Performance is in evolving, nascent form to enable this common approach. Adopting the common approach may require mandatary levels of data quality and data sharing through regulation in particular across the regulated sectors; energy, water and wastewater, digital and transport.
Climate change is a systemic challenge for all infrastructure sectors that demands systems-based solutions. CNI resilience is rarely concerned with a single infrastructure system in isolation. Power, water and drainage, transport and communications systems are all inter-related, so an extreme event that affects one is likely to have a knock-on effect on others. The simulation of extreme events will require access to asset data from multiple infrastructure systems. To carry out such simulations routinely, requires a standard external view of the data about each infrastructure system and interoperability between data sets which would be provided by the Foundation Data Model under development in the National Digital Twin programme’s Information Management Framework.
Recent reports from the Committee of Climate Change and HM Government note a poor level of understanding of infrastructure interdependencies. Improving infrastructure resilience is contingent upon a better understanding of infrastructure interdependencies. Infrastructure asset owners across digital, energy, transport and water and wastewater principally consider the maintenance of assets within their sectors rather than the dependencies on assets in other sectors. The increased incidence of extreme weather events caused by climate change will increase the likelihood of assets failing.
Infrastructure asset owners will need to have an understanding of how their own assets and networks will respond to extreme weather events (heat, flooding, storm damage etc) and also of how assets from other networks they are dependent on will be affected by extreme weather events. In this way, asset owners need to understand infrastructure interdependencies and how those interdependencies will be affected by climate change.
The CReDo digital twin as described below brings together data across energy, water and communications networks to present a picture of the interdependencies across these networks. Flood data can be run through the CReDo digital twin to show the impact of flooding on these interdependencies to understand which assets would fail and how asset failure can propagate through the infrastructure system causing system wide outages. Such a picture can then inform the appropriate interventions, such as increasing the level of flood defence, relocating the asset or increase back-up power capability to protect assets in advance of such extreme weather events happening and to prioritise maintenance at certain critical sites.
The operational real time response to extreme events requires access to real-time, or near real-time, data about the state of assets across multiple infrastructure systems. The CReDo digital twin currently works with static asset data but could be developed further in the future to work with live data to inform a real time response to extreme weather events caused by climate change.
CReDo is a climate adaptation digital twin sponsored by UK Research and Innovation and Connected Places Catapult and is the pilot project for the National Digital Twin programme. CReDo’s purpose is two-fold:
Data about assets is brought together across three infrastructure asset owners, Anglian Water, BT and UK Power Networks into one digital twin of the infrastructure system network. Combining data sets from three separate organisations into one system model is not straightforward and principled information management techniques such as using the appropriate ontologies and striving for semantic precision is essential to bringing the data together to present the clearest picture of the infrastructure system without inaccuracies. Coastal and fluvial flood data has been sourced from the Environment Agency and the HiPIMS (High-Performance Integrated hydrodynamic Modelling System) model has been used to generate surface water flooding data that could be expected under a range of future climate change scenarios. Expert elicitation techniques have been employed to understand the impact of the flood scenarios on asset failure within the infrastructure networks. Operational research techniques have been employed to better understand the infrastructure interdependencies and to identify the propagation of asset failure both across single networks and across the infrastructure system as a whole resulting from the flood scenarios. This builds a picture of system impact from flooding scenarios which would not otherwise be available to the individual networks or regulators who would only see the impact of flooding on their own networks.
This cross-sector picture of impact of extreme weather events on the infrastructure system can enable asset owners and regulators to better understand infrastructure interdependencies and identify the most effective, least cost and lowest carbon impact interventions to increase resilience. In addition, the incorporation of live data feeds would demonstrate the potential to inform shorter term operational response leading up to and during extreme weather events.
A project like CReDo brings benefits in terms of improved information management and increased system resilience to extreme weather events and it is necessary to demonstrate and evidence these benefits to encourage investment in information management and climate resilience digital twins, both the people and the technology. The CReDo project team is currently undertaking a study on the benefits of using digital technologies to share data across organisations to improve resilience. Work is currently underway to assess and value the benefits of the CReDo approach to improving resilience and will be published on the digitaltwinhub.co.uk in March 2022.
The CReDo app CReDo Film - DT Hub Community (digitaltwinhub.co.uk) presents the concept of a resilience score to measure the resilience of an infrastructure system. The CReDo film presents a fictional scenario to demonstrate why infrastructure asset owners need to collaborate and share data to increase resilience. All information about the CReDo project can be found on the digital twin hub and a public webinar is being held on 2 March to share the results of the project so far CReDo project show-and-tell webinar: Collaboration and resilience through connected digital twins - Community Calendar - DT Hub Community (digitaltwinhub.co.uk).
The first phase of CReDo running from April 2021 to March 2022 has been focused on proof of concept and showing how data can be connected up in one secure digital twin. This first phase is expected to lead into future phases which explore further the opportunities to use digital twins for anticipating and managing the impact of climate change on CNI, for example how possible interventions could be assessed within the digital twin, with a view to creating a deployable tool for supporting decisions to increase the resilience of the overall infrastructure system.
25 February 2022
 Data for the public good (nic.org.uk)
 Government response to Data for the Public Good - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
 IMF - DT Hub Community (digitaltwinhub.co.uk)
 National Infrastructure Strategy - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
 Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
 2021 Progress Report to Parliament - Climate Change Committee (theccc.org.uk)
 UK Climate Change Risk Assesment 2022 (publishing.service.gov.uk)
 GitHub - HEMLab/hipims: High-Performance Integrated Modelling System