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Research grant for project on data-driven innovation in infrastructure

What factors impede the implementation of data-driven innovation in infrastructure sectors and how can these impediments can be overcome? NWO has awarded a research grant of 500,000 euros to Prof. Saskia Lavrijssen (Tilburg Law School, TILEC) and Prof. Martijn Groenleer (Tilburg Law School, Tilburg School of Governance) for a project to investigate this as part of the Next Generation Infrastructures program.

The project, titled ‘Legal, Organizational, Network & Governance Aspects of Data-Driven Innovations in Infrastructure Management’ (LONGA VIA), is a collaboration with Dr. Wendy van der Valk and Prof. Henk Akkermans of the Tilburg School of Economics and Management. It will be carried out in close cooperation with several large infrastructure organizations including Alliander, Vitens, Port of Rotterdam, Prorail and Rijkswaterstaat.

Managers of infrastructures for energy, transport and water are continuously looking for smarter ways to operate and maintain their infrastructures, in order to provide reliable, safe, affordable and sustainable services to the general public. At the same time, existing infrastructures are aging, and facing increased wear and tear as a result of higher utilization. Data-driven innovation in the operation and maintenance of, and the sharing of data across critical infrastructures can aid the managers of these infrastructures in safeguarding these public interests, yet are insufficiently utilized. There is little cross-sectoral cooperation between infrastructure managers for the purpose of creating data sharing platforms and common security and crisis procedures. Neither are data-driven innovations in infrastructure operation and maintenance implemented at a large scale.

The project investigates what factors impede the implementation of data-driven innovation in infrastructure sectors and how these impediments can be overcome. It combines an organizational-economic perspective on infrastructure operation and maintenance with a legal-empirical perspective, a combination which is promising yet hardly pursued. The organizational-economic perspective helps to assess the main hurdles towards the adoption of data-driven innovation, and seeks to identify effective business models. The legal-empirical perspective is used to identify legal and regulatory barriers, and aims to identify effective adaptations to existing rules and regulations to facilitate such innovations. In combination, these two perspectives help mitigate challenges at the organizational level (i.e., at infrastructure managers and between them and their partners) as well as at the sectoral level (i.e., within and across infrastructures).

The legal part of the project will be executed by a PhD with a legal and/or law and economics background and will be supervised by Prof. Lavrijssen and Prof. Groenleer. The economic part of the project will be performed by a PhD with an economics or business studies background and will be supervised by Prof. Akkermans and Dr. Van der Valk.