Digital Twins for Resilience

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In the interview with Eleanor Voss, policy advisor to the NIC, we have begun to explore the recommendations from the NIC regarding the incorporation of resilience standards and the adoption of these by regulators. Eleanor has provided a comprehensive overview of the most pertinent areas of the study to our members and has provided us with the opportunity to influence the route that these recommendations may eventually take.

For those who are not aware, The NIC is an arm’s length body of the treasury. The Commission makes recommendations to government on economic infrastructure policy. If government accept the Commission’s recommendations, they become government policy. For example, in 2017, the NIC published the report, Data for the Public Good, which made recommendations to government on the opportunities that data, machine learning, AI and digital twins present for infrastructure planning, operation and resilience. Now, of course, following acceptance of many of the NIC’s recommendations in the report, the Centre for Digital Built Britain is taking forward much of this work through its National Digital Twin Programme. The Commission continues to play a role in steering this valuable programme.

In the past, the NIC has approached resilience from a sector level, for example, water and energy, but with the current environmental, population and technological changes, resilience has become a pressing issue with a need for a cross sector approach.  This is particularly highlighted by the interdependent nature of infrastructure. In 2018, the then chancellor asked the NIC to undertake a cross sector study, and to recommend to government, policy measures needed to ensure the resilience of the energy, telecommunications, water and transport sectors.  A few weeks ago, the NIC published its study of infrastructure resilience – Anticipate, React, Recover: Resilient Infrastructure Systems. The report calls for government to set standards for the resilience of our infrastructure and create a framework to ensure that these standards will be met now and in the future.  Today, of course, the impact of Covid-19 has meant that resilience is being discussed by everyone.


In order for an asset to fully satisfy its function in a manner that is effective it is often said that it is necessary for it to be resilient. But what do we actually mean by that? During the interview with Eleanor, she refers to it as infrastructure systems, engineering and organisational systems being able to:

anticipate, resist, absorb, recover, adapt and transform.

That places quite a high degree of responsibility on the ownership, operation and design of an asset or system. With the publication of the NIC report recommending Government publish resilience standards and for regulators to introduce these as new obligations on infrastructure operators by 2023, it is absolutely essential that we are able to understand how this might affect us and what preparatory work we can be doing now to be ready.


The first part of ensuring that an asset is resilient is measurement. This is where we want to focus the discussion in the Hub. It is vital that we are able to provide feedback into the Commission regarding the feasibility of their recommendations and the only way in which we can reasonably look to do this is through assessing the practicality and viability of first measuring and then later utilising these results. Within the interview, Eleanor draws out three key areas where your guidance would be beneficial.  These are:

1.   How do we identify the appropriate level of granularity for data and models such that they can support the measurement of resilience?

2.   Providing accurate simulations for complex systems such as infrastructure requires a realistic digital representation of the physical one. As this is the core aims of Digital Twins, how can we use Digital Twins in areas such as what-if scenario planning and assessing the necessary circumstances which lead to loss of service?

3.   Dependencies/interdependencies how can we use Digital Twins to understand these and manage them?


Within the Hub we would like to encourage members to consider these questions from the perspective of the asset owner/operator they represent and allow us to provide useful feedback to the commission. The Hub will be running this discussion until the end of August when we will segue the discussion and start looking at supporting adaptive planning.



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