Research that explores the social impact of network interventions on local communities is set to be carried out.
Routine maintenance works on the networks that deliver water, heat, power and remove waste to UK households frequently come under fire for the disruption they cause to residents. The research will investigate how innovation can be used to reduce the impact on local communities and drive up productivity.
Utility companies across the North East and Yorkshire and the Energy Innovation Centre (EIC) are working together to better understand the impact of utility maintenance, replacement and repair activities on local communities.
The utility partners - Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid, Yorkshire Water and Northumbrian Water - have appointed WRc and Collingwood Environmental Planning to carry out the research which will be co-ordinated by the EIC.
The project will explore appropriate metrics for assessing the social impact of network interventions. It will investigate how innovation can be used to maximise benefits, reduce the impact on local communities and drive up productivity.
EIC CEO Denise Massey said: "We are delighted to be undertaking such an important research project with a range of cross-industry partners which is the first of its kind in the UK.
"We believe that by working collaboratively on this topic we will be able to identify how innovation can transform maintenance works so that people and places no longer feel their negative impact. We hope that our findings will lead to a more cohesive, people-centric approach that can be replicated across the rest of the UK. This project is an excellent example of how we can work together for a better collective future."
Dean Pearson, Northern Gas Networks' Demand Forecast Analyst, said: "The four networks involved believe that by working collaboratively and researching this topic, the outcome will be a wider and more cohesive approach that could be replicated across the UK."
Chris Goodhand, Northern Powergrid's Innovation Manager, said: "By putting society at the heart of this new research we'll be able to gain an insight into how the work we do every day to improve our networks impacts on communities. The outcomes of the research may help inform more innovative approaches that enable more effective investment and better coordinated network projects whilst minimising disruption and delivering long-term enhancements and economic benefits to the communities we serve."