Designing for the expected and unexpected: LR Foundation's review of resilience engineering

20 October 2015, Freiburg, Germany

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation, the leading UK charity supporting engineering-related research and education worldwide and parent of LR, today launches its Foresight review of resilience engineering.

Resilience describes how systems withstand, respond and adapt to disruptive events. These events can be short term shocks like storms, earthquakes and conflicts, or can be more predictable and longer term. What causes some businesses to survive change where others do not? Why do some countries and cities thrive under change while others struggle? How do some engineered structures and systems withstand adverse conditions while others collapse catastrophically? The answers lie in the consideration of resilience. 

The foresight review explores how resilience engineering could enhance the safety of life and property through the improved resilience of engineered structures, systems, organisations and communities around the world. Building on the findings of this review, the Foundation will identify aspects of resilience engineering to focus its research and grant giving to make a distinctive positive impact. It will issue an international call for expressions of interest to establish a programme to build the resilience of critical infrastructure sectors. 

You can download copies of all the Foundation's foresight reviews at www.lrfoundation.org.uk/publications/index.aspx 

“The Foundation is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in an international effort to better understand, communicate and improve resilience towards safety of life and property. We will be investing in resilience engineering, with the aims of maximising benefit to society while also leveraging, and not duplicating, activities underway elsewhere, ” Prof Richard Clegg, Managing Director of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

“We have only to examine recent events such as Hurricane Sandy in the New York area to understand the complexity of the challenges that lie ahead. Cascading failures in the transportation, healthcare and energy sectors during that event demonstrated the need to develop trans-disciplinary solution pathways that can ultimately enable ‘resiliency by design’, ” Prof Michael Bruno, Dean of Schaefer School of Engineering and Science at Stevens Institute of Technology and author of the review, based on inputs from experts from five continents and across many industrial sectors and academic disciplines.  

The Foundation has chosen to launch this report in Germany at the Sustainability Summit hosted by Fraunhofer and the University of Freiburg. Fraunhofer is one of the world’s leading organisations in developing innovative engineering solutions. Together with the renowned University of Freiburg, the five Fraunhofer-Institutes located in Freiburg joined forces and built the Sustainability Center Freiburg. Within the Center they develop applicable solutions for the great challenges of our time – among them the question of how our societies can become more resilient towards expected and unexpected disruptions. 

“Resilience is a key component of sustainable development. At our Sustainability Center we develop technological solutions that help systems to preserve their critical functionality, ensure graceful degradation and enable fast recovery in the face of disruptive events. This is our understanding of resilience engineering,” Prof Stefan Hiermaier from Fraunhofer.  

Moving ahead to improve resilience 

The foresight review recommends that the Foundation brings a substantial societal benefit by building the resilience of critical infrastructure sectors. 

Society depends on the proper functioning of essential services such as food and water, energy, transportation, telecommunications, the built environment and healthcare. These sectors are increasingly complex and interdependent, acting at a global scale, and making them susceptible to catastrophic and cascading failure under stress. The Foundation can build resilience, for example, through a programme addressing: 

• governance: incentives, standards and rules 

• capacity building and engagement: professional development, publications, communication and public engagement 

• data and supporting tools: shared datasets, modelling and simulation, decision support 

• international and global scale networks: studies of global systems, supply chains, knowledge networks. 

The Foundation's foresight review series

This foresight review is the fourth in a series from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, LR's parent body. The Foresight review of big data, launched in December 2014, led to a £10 million research grant for the Turing Institute over five years, and the Foresight review of nanotechnology, published in April 2014 resulted in awarded grants totalling £9 million to three international consortia in the field of nanotechnology. Earlier this month the Foundation launched the Foresight review of structural integrity and systems performance in Singapore.

You can download copies of all the Foundation's foresight reviews at www.lrfoundation.org.uk/publications/index.aspx