Knowledge Exchange is an important part of university-business collaboration. The partnership between engineering consultants Mott MacDonald and the University of Cambridge shows how there can be benefits for staff and students.

Mott MacDonald engineer Katie Liu has taken part in a secondment to Cambridge’s Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC).

“The secondment has also included a range of training activity that benefits Katie personally and Mott MacDonald as a company”

CSIC is one of only seven Innovation and Knowledge Centres (IKCs) nationally formed to champion pioneering research and development and drive technology-led business growth. Working with its industry partners, the Centre develops, trials, provides and delivers high-quality, low cost, accurate sensor technologies and predictive tools such as fibre optics, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Wireless Sensor Networks.

These are new ways for industry to monitor how infrastructure behaves during construction and when in use, to improve sustainability throughout the project. Building these sorts of data collection tools into new projects provides data with valuable academic and commercial applications and is a natural area for university-business collaboration.

CSIC’s technologies are being trailed on some of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK and Katie has acted as part of CSIC’s deployment team focusing on utilising fibre optic sensing in field applications, especially within retaining walls, and gathering data for analysis that will lead to improved performance-based design and construction processes.

Katie has taken part in a range of major engineering projects of research value to the University and providing direct benefit for the businesses involved. They include:

  • Crossrail Liverpool Street Station – Katie assisted in fibre optic installation to study the breakout of the cross-passage tunnels on a concourse tunnel and data collection on site.
  • Manchester United Utility Shaft – Katie assisted in splicing multiple fibre optic cables installed within the circular shaft to understand hoop stress generated during excavation (in progress until 2015) and data collection.
  • Crossrail Limmo Shaft – based on the data from fibre optics installed within diaphragm wall panels during excavation, which is now completed, collated by other CSIC colleagues, Katie carried out data analysis using MATLAB to give better understanding on bending, hoop and temperature strains of the shaft. This will contribute to more informed decision making and potential savings in materials, programme and cost in the future.
  • MM Water and Environment – Katie organised meeting between CSIC and the MM Cambridge office in view of collaboration, knowledge dissemination and broadening the deployment of fibre optics in civil infrastructures in the water environment.

The secondment has also included a range of training activity that benefits Katie personally and Mott MacDonald as a company including:

  • Laboratory sessions – obtained understanding of various aspects of fibre optic sensing including testing, data processors and types of fibres.
  • Site visits – gained field experiences in fibre optic installation including fibre protection, splicing, data gathering and testing.
  • Meetings and conferences where a number of industrial and research groups around the world share their experiences with fibre optic sensing in civil infrastructure, including establish connections with projects worldwide for a global perspective.
  • Health and safety courses.

Do you have a Success Story to share?

We’d love to hear about your collaboration. Get in touch and a member of our team will get back to you.