Cyber-physical infrastructure: what leaders need to know

Cyber-physical infrastructure (CPI) – an independent review and a new collaboration.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have an interactive copy of yourself, your city, or even your planet? How would that change the way you live, work, and learn? How would that help you solve some of the biggest challenges facing humanity?

If you are curious about these questions, then you should know about CPI. CPI is a term that describes the integration of digital and physical systems to create new capabilities and opportunities for research and innovation.

Back in March I wrote about six pioneering CPI projects that Innovate UK supported. Since then, lots of exciting developments happened that showed the size and scale of business demand.

Today we welcome the launch event of the National Cyber-Physical Infrastructure (NCPI) ecosystem and present a new independent report on our work.

Not just a buzzword or futuristic concept

The cyber-physical vision launched it in 2021 providing a glimpse of future infrastructure for the UK. The vision made it clear that there was much work to be done.

To help Innovate UK design its support we commissioned Athenophilia to independently report on the CPI projects and landscape.

They interviewed representatives from 55 organisations including venture capitalists, start-ups, government departments, research organisations and consultancies including Catapult leaders, programme and workstream leads and industry specialists.

Read the report: responsive infrastructure: The Henry Fenby-Taylor review of CPI

Faster commercialisation, cheaper development, effective collaboration

The Henry Fenby-Taylor review of CPI showcases some of the examples of CPI projects that Innovate UK has funded at the Catapults. Demonstrating how CPI can be applied in various contexts and domains. Some of these examples are:

  • the DOME and 5G Marine Portal from the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to provide offshore wind developers and operators with a unique platform to demonstrate and test virtual solutions
  • the 2035 transport vision and roadmap which is a vision for an ecosystem of connected digital twins to support decarbonisation and improved performance of UK transport systems
  • the Apollo Protocol: a collaborative framework to aid the development of digital twins across different sectors
  • the National Digital Twin Programme: a research and development programme to develop standards, processes, and tools to enable a functioning market in digital twins
Boat dock with a small square yellow structure out over the water with solar panels on all sides.

JET Connectivity floating 5G system for offshore windfarms. Part of the ORE Catapult 5G Portal. Credit: JET Connectivity

What are the recommendations?

The report makes some recommendations on how Innovate UK and UK Research and Innovation can enable a national CPI to catalyse innovation. The report also builds on the consultation document and the government response on CPI that were published earlier this year.

Some of these recommendations are:

  • to develop a clear vision and strategy for CPI that aligns with the UK’s research and innovation priorities and goals
  • to establish a governance framework that ensures ethical standards, security, trustworthiness and interoperability
  • to create a funding mechanism for CPI that supports both foundational research and applied innovation across different disciplines, sectors, regions, scales, and stages
  • to facilitate a collaborative ecosystem for CPI that involves diverse stakeholders including academia, industry, end-users, and international partners
  • to promote a culture of learning and sharing for CPI that encourages knowledge exchange, skills development, public awareness, and education outreach

These recommendations will help Innovate UK and the wider ecosystem to develop a programme of support for UK businesses. We welcome the launch today of the NCPI and encourage companies and leaders to engage with their forthcoming programme.

Also by Simon Hart: Cyber-physical infrastructure to catalyse innovation.

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Top image:  Cover image of the 'Responsive infrastructure: the Henry Fenby-Taylor review of CPI' report. Credit: Henry Fenby-Taylor, Founder and CEO, Athenophilia Ltd.

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