Risk is the potential of experiencing a loss when a system does not operate as expected due to uncertainties. Its assessment requires the quantification of both the system failure potential and the multi-faceted failure consequences, which affect further systems. Modern industries (including the engineering and financial sectors) require increasingly large and complex models to quantify risks that are not confined to single disciplines but cross into possibly several other areas. Disasters such as hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima nuclear incident and the global financial crisis show how failures in technical and management systems cause consequences and further failures in technological, environmental, financial, and social systems, which are all inter-related.
This requires a comprehensive multi-disciplinary understanding of all aspects of uncertainty and risk and measures for risk management, reduction, control and mitigation as well as skills in applying the necessary mathematical, modelling and computational tools for risk oriented decision-making. This complexity has to be considered in very early planning stages, for example, for the realisation of green energy or nuclear power concepts and systems, where benefits and risks have to be considered from various angles. The involved parties include engineering and energy companies, banks, insurance and re-insurance companies, state and local governments, environmental agencies, the society both locally and globally, construction companies, service and maintenance industries, emergency services, etc.
The CDT is focussed on training a new generation of highly-skilled graduates in this particular area of engineering, mathematics and the environmental sciences based at the Liverpool Institute for Risk and Uncertainty. New challenges will be addressed using emerging probabilistic technologies together with generalised uncertainty models, simulation techniques, algorithms and large-scale computing power. Skills required will be centred in the application of mathematics in areas of engineering, economics, financial mathematics, and psychology/social science, to reflect the complexity and inter-relationship of real world systems. The CDT addresses these needs with multi-disciplinary training and skills development on a common mathematical platform with associated computational tools tailored to user requirements. The centre reflects this concept with three major components:
(1) Development and enhancement of mathematical and computational skills;
(2) Customisation and implementation of models, tools and techniques according to user requirements; and
(3) Industrial and overseas university placements to ensure industrial and academic impact of the research.
This will develop graduates with solid mathematical skills applied on a systems level, who can translate numerical results into languages of engineering and other disciplines to influence end-users including policy makers. Existing technologies for the quantification and management of uncertainties and risks have yet to achieve their significant potential benefit for industry. Industrial implementation is presently held back because of a lack of multidisciplinary training and application. The Centre addresses this problem directly to realise a significant step forward, producing a culture change in quantification and management of risk and uncertainty technically as well as educationally through the cohort approach to PGR training.
The proposed training programme is envisaged to have a multifaceted impact as follows:
1) Graduate Employment in Industry
The CDT is specifically focussed on training graduates according to the requirements of industry in the areas of risk and uncertainty in complex systems and environments. Our graduates will benefit from specifically tailored multi-disciplinary training with extensive involvement of industrial partners. Engineering companies will benefit from graduates trained to make complex high-level design decisions on projects such as the development of wind farms, nuclear power systems and aircraft development, in the context of uncertainties and risks from climate change, terrorist attacks, environmental change, societal acceptability, economic sustainability and feasibility and so forth. Companies from the economic-financial sector will receive graduates with a systems level economic, mathematical and technical understanding in order to derive and implement optimal long-term actuarial decisions as a basis for a sustainable financial environment. Environmental agencies and authorities will receive graduates with an extended technical and economic understanding, who are trained to communicate risks to society and to receive feedback for translation into technical and economical adjustments and also into policies, etc.
2) Graduate Employment in Academia
Our graduates will possess unique potential for distinguished academic careers based on the combination of multi-/inter-disciplinary and industry-oriented training. With this unique strength they will be role models for the next generation and key players in defining groundbreaking research for the next several decades. They will carry the integrated multi-disciplinary and industry-oriented training approach of this CDT into academia generally and so influence the educational and research landscape on a global scale.
3) Research Impact on Industry
The scope for deployment of newly developed methodologies in risk assessment in industry is considerable, as indicated by the industrial letters of support. The main mechanism for structuring the realisation of this impact is through the student placements and subsequent ongoing involvement in the research projects. The Executive Board will have strong industrial representation, and will provide guidance on maximising the knowledge exchange achieved. This avenue is the key driver to benefit the UK economy and society. It will accelerate the economic growth through both technological and intellectual culture change and it will attract foreign investments.
4) Impact of the research on academia
The multidisciplinary research concept of the CDT is expected to emerge into academia as a role model. The industrial challenges to be addressed are characterised by a rapidly increasing complexity and inter-connectivity between systems from different disciplines. This requires a culture change in research over the next decade, which will be taken up enthusiastically by this CDT and spread outward to the wider academic community. The large network of our international partners for the CDT will provide a means of structuring the impact of CDT research advances on the academic community in addition to the usual forms of transfer such as international peer-reviewed journal publications, conference presentations and a web site, which will all be used.
5) Impact of the Centre on the University of Liverpool
The CDT will be a prominent part of the strategy to develop a world leading location for the study of Risk and Uncertainty at Liverpool. The investment in staff described in the letter of support makes this a realistic goal, and the development of a large number of connected PhD projects within an ambitious and outward looking framework will be a powerful means of driving the development towards the stated goal.
Funding awarded to University of Liverpool: Total value (£) 4,114,538 (EPSRC/ESRC) .