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Executive Summary Infrastructure systems are integral to the social, political, and economic life of our nation. They affect the quality of our transportation, our buildings, and the crater we drink, access to electrical power and com~nunicatio=, and the efficacy and safety of our waste removal. Because they are so pewasive, complex, and varied, the maintenance and improvement of infrastructure systems have not received consistent attention. We do know that the investments ~ our infrastructure facilities are enormous; that buildings, highways, and systems for supplying water must be maintained; and that new technologies are emerging which, if well applied, can both improve the quality of our infrastructure systems and enable the more effective use of public funds. The Committee on Infrastructure Innovation of the National Research Council in response to a request from the National Coun- ci} on Public Works hnpro~rement examined the following: promising research areas for the technological improvement of infrastructure; factors governing the adoption or rejection of technological inno~ration8; and, 1
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2 the meam for developing and carrying out a national ret search agenda to foster innovative research for ~nfrastruc- ture systems. In responding to this charge, the committee was aware of the limits of what it could do. Agreement on both the content and institutional arrangement for a program of wfrmtructure research requires the active participation of the affected constituencies private industry, government, academia, and associations. It also requires articulation of a comprehensive research agenda. The committee, by virtue of its limited tenure and available resources, was not able to involve ad the affected constituencies or to prepare a comprehensive agenda. The committee did find, however, that there were both oppor- tunities for research and barriers to innovation that transcended the separate modes that together constitute the infrastructure system. Thus, the committee finds that there are illustrative on portunities for crosscutting research pertinent to infrastructure in materials sciences, information technology, urban and regional plaur~ing, and nondestructive evaluation. Further, in recommending the next step in constructing a broad and sustained research effort for infrastructure systems, the com~nittee considered ex~t~g mode] research programs, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Substantial opportunities were found for research ~ several modes, including the management of solid wastes, water pollution control, and urban mobility. The committee therefore believes that a framework for research on infrastructure systerrm should include efforts to build on existing modal efforts, by strengthening existing progeny and initiating efforts where needed. The berries common to all infrastructure modes include the large scale of public works projects that limit the ability of local communities to month and enhance their infrastructure, the absence of effective market mechan~me for adopting innovations, the fragmented institutional structures within which ~frastruc- ture systems are developed and operated, and other factors. Overall, the committee found that research add development can contribute in significant ways to the performance of infract structure services by providing managers and policymakers with a broader range of options. Current research and development on infrastructure ~ uneven across the various modes of infrastructure,
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3 with some commanding considerable resources while others are underfunded and facing significant challenges. The committee also determined that research addressing problems common to several modes and their interaction is not given sufficient attention. These factors led to the committee' conclusion that a gum tanned ~titutiona] focus for a program of infrastructure research, development, and technology transfer was needed. To bring this program into icing,, the committee recommends that a two-year imp~cmcutation program ic initiated immediately to explore with the many constituencies involved In the infrastructure system the prereq~ ite8 to creating an organization that would provide the stimulus, focus, and coherence for a sustained effort in Rife structure research. The committee believes that the tasks of this tw~year implementation program should include: Defining the managerial structure, financial mechanisms, and the Iirmtatiorm under which this organization should operate; Developing a national agenda of research and development for infrastructure systems that identifies the current gaps in research and notes research opportunities for addressing problems common to several modes; Bringing into the program the talent "d expertise of the various ex~t~g mode research groups; Establishing minnnum goad and criteria for research and implementation; and Informing federal agencies, the user and professional com- munities, and the public about the opportunities for re- search ~ building a more eEective infrastructure system. The ~rnplementation program should develop a national strat- egy for ~nfrmtructure research and development. Efforts to strengthen and encourage exiting modal research efforts are an essential complement to this activity. The committee believes these steps will be necessary to lay the groundwork for meeting the infrastructure needs of the 21st century.