An optimally designed, constructed and maintained infrastructure (e.g. facilities for transportation, energy production or recreation) is of economic and social importance in every modern society. The performance of an infrastructure system strongly affects the distribution of resources and goods, the accessibility and economic development of regions, the mobility of citizen and the overall quality of life. Economic strength and social health of countries are directly related to the effectiveness and efficiency of the infrastructure system. In order to guarantee a performance level throughout the entire infrastructure life cycle that meets the needs of the user and the owner, a professional infrastructure management is required.
Infrastructure management (IM) involves activities and decisions that reduce the expenditures over the life-cycle of an infrastructure asset while extending the period for which the asset provides its required performance. It focuses on three main questions: the why, when and what of activities and decisions. The “why” concerns the objective or purpose of infrastructure. An infrastructure asset represents a resource used by an organisation (e.g. public agency) to deliver services to its customers or run its production processes. By defining infrastructure objectives the importance of an asset for an organisation and its role for the organization’s business can be determined. The “when” addresses the performance situation of infrastructure. An infrastructure asset wears out over time and can reach a critical stage of undesired performance. By analysing the development of functional and technical performance of infrastructure the point in time when the performance of an asset becomes critical can be identified. The “what” deals with the kind of interventions throughout the life-cycle of an infrastructure asset. Interventions may include preventive and corrective maintenance, renovation or (re)building.
A professional IM is characterized by the continuous alignment of the why, when and what (Figure 1):
- Infrastructure objectives are used to evaluate the situation of infrastructure assets
- Infrastructure objectives are translated into infrastructure interventions
- Infrastructure interventions take the current and future situation of infrastructure assets into account
- Infrastructure interventions result in an infrastructure situation which is conform to the infrastructure objectives
- Infrastructure objectives are evaluated based on the infrastructure interventions applied and unexpected changes of the infrastructure situation
IM decisions and activities are embedded in and influenced by a specific institutional context. The alignment of the three questions is not only a response to the deterioration of infrastructure. It is also an answer to changing social, technological, political and environmental issues (Figure 1). Particularly in recent years the complexity and dynamics of the decision making in infrastructure management has steadily increased. Many government agencies have been confronted with budgetary constraints and at same time have been forced to improve the effectiveness of their service delivery. Public-private partnerships have been extensively used to deliver critical infrastructure and new procedures and methods of prioritizing infrastructure investment decisions have been sought. The prevailing financial crisis, however, has resulted in many governments re-evaluating their approaches to delivering and managing infrastructure. The public sector has found it difficult to borrow and raise finance from funding institutions and capital markets. Many governments have attempted to stimulate their economies by new investments in new and upgraded facilities so as to create employment and investment. As a consequence, additional burdens for future maintenance budgets and investments are expected.
Figure 1 Infrastructure Management Framework
The Programme for Infrastructure Management Excellence (PrIME) seeks to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of decisions and activities that aim at maintaining, restoring or increasing infrastructure performance.
PrIME adopts an integrative approach which brings together ideas from technical, organizational and social science to better understand the dynamic and complex character of IM (Figure 1). We strive for new methods, models and processes that allow an optimized decision making throughout the life-cycle of infrastructure assets. PrIME involves a number of research projects which address a diverse range of IM aspects such as:
- maintenance management,
- performance measurement,
- procurement strategies,
- life cycle management,
- partnering and learning.
Education activities are also part of PrIME. Many organizations are looking for a new generation of infrastructure managers who are able to cope with complex problems in a multi-level, multi-interest decision context. PrIME facilitates the development of IM competencies and capabilities through the provision of courses and training.
Although PrIME is an initiative of the University of Twente we provide many programme activities in close collaborations with other organizations from industry and academia. Our industry partners are:
- Rijkswaterstaat (NL),
- ProRail (NL)
- Iter Fidelis (NL),
- Grontmij (NL),
- Arcadis (NL),
- AT Osborne (NL),
- Province Overijssel (NL),
- Highways Agency (UK).
Our partners from academia include:
- Delft University (NL),
- Wageningen University (NL),
- Imperial College London (UK),
- Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium),
- Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Switzerland),
- French Public Works Research Laboratory (France),
- Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany)
- TNO (NL).