A consortium led by Prof. Dirk Pieter van Donk has been awarded an NWO grant worth EUR 500,000 for research on how to improve large-scale infrastructure maintenance and renewal projects. Such joint projects can be carried out at a lower cost and with less inconvenience (better accessibility during roadworks, for instance), but infrastructure managers often struggle with how to realize these benefits. Organizing the collaboration and aligning various interests and schedules has proven to be more difficult than expected. The specific characteristics of the sector thus give rise to challenging questions for science, say the researchers.
‘This type of infrastructure project could mean relatively simple jobs such as maintenance work on underground gas and water mains and the roads above them, but it could also mean large, complex operations in which maintenance must be performed on waterways, bridges, roads and railway lines in one location simultaneously,’ says Van Donk, Professor of Operations Management at the Faculty of Economy and Business (FEB) at the University of Groningen. ‘It is our goal to develop optimization models, organizational structures and processes that will eventually help improve collaboration in such maintenance projects.’
The research proposal is a joint project of Van Donk and FEB researchers Dr Peter Essens, Prof. Gerben van der Vegt, Dr Kirstin Scholten, Dr Bram de Jonge and Dr Thom de Vries. The project illustrates the interdisciplinary approach within FEB’s Collective Resilience signature area. The external partners in the consortium are water company Vitens, Schiphol Airport, energy network company Alliander and the Port of Rotterdam. NWO and NGinfra are funding the research from the Next Generation Infrastructures, Responsive Innovations scheme. The grants will fund two PhD research projects into ‘joint maintenance planning models’ and ‘multi-stakeholder coordination and collaboration’.
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