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Innovation in Infrastructure: the railway as a socio-technical system

21 March 2017 17:30 to 18:30

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The railway system is continually developing and changing. In long-established infrastructure systems, like the railway system of Great Britain, development is often complex. Innovation in these systems is both important and difficult to understand; it comes in many forms and through many different routes. This presentation is on research into how mature infrastructure systems develop and change; using social science theories on socio-technical systems the case of Great Britain’s railway system is examined. Privatisation of this system, initiated outside the railway system, has led to a series of different organisational arrangements directing system operation and development over a relatively short period. Examining these developments using socio-technical systems theories highlights ways in which innovation can be, deliberately and unintentionally, shaped and it shows connections between the social and the technical forces in play. Reflecting on privatisation and its aftermath can provide lessons for directing future development in the railway system. Improved understanding of processes around system development can be valuable to both practitioners and policymakers concerned with generating, or responding to, innovation.

Dr Kat Lovell is a Research Fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. Having trained in Engineering, Kat began her work on railways as part of a project on railway systems within the Rail Research UK consortium. This work inspired her PhD in Innovation Studies at Imperial College Business School researching the case of privatisation of Great Britain’s railway network. Kat’s research at SPRU is part of two interdisciplinary and interuniversity projects on UK infrastructure: International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF) where Kat’s work looks at business models for infrastructure development and ITRC-MISTRAL (Multi-scale Infrastructure Systems Analytics) researching infrastructure governance and development at different scales. Kat’s research focuses on infrastructure systems and how they change and for the future she is working with SPRU colleagues to develop ideas around inclusive infrastructure.

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  • Atkins, Euston Tower, 286 Euston Road, London NW1 3AT
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