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AECOM and Salford University launch infrastructure research partnership

17 August 2016

A new research partnership between the University and global consultancy firm AECOM, which aims to boost understanding of the environmental impact of major infrastructure projects, has been announced.

The organisations will jointly bid for and fund research on topics directly related to major infrastructure projects, such as the £1.86bn Mersey Gateway scheme. The research areas will be chosen to provide benefits, and to help reduce adverse impacts and improve outcomes for the natural environment on future projects.

The UK has an ambitious infrastructure plan, so developing industry’s knowledge of this key area will be increasingly important for future programmes. The partnership has evolved from the environmental consultancy work AECOM is delivering for the Mersey Gateway Project, a major new transport scheme and one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK. The company is providing specialist environmental advice and monitoring to help manage the impact of the new route on the environment. The work is part of AECOM’s design joint venture with UK consultant Flint & Neill to deliver detailed design consultancy services to the Merseylink consortium, which was awarded a contract to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the scheme for Halton Borough Council.

Peter Skinner, Chief Executive – Environment & Ground Engineering, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, AECOM, said: “Shaping research so that it is applicable to specific projects provides students with opportunities to make a tangible difference to both academia and industry through their learning.

“Greater collaboration between universities and the private sector will make an important contribution to mitigating the impact of infrastructure on the environment and protecting the natural world. AECOM is proud to be working with the University of Salford on this initiative to increase understanding of the environmental and ecological aspects of infrastructure projects.”

Professor Nigel Mellors, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University said: “This partnership will provide a unique opportunity for both parties. It fits into our aim of focusing our research at real life challenges and to deliver real life impact for society. It will also give our students the chance to get involved in a live project and help them develop key skills for industry.”

Professor Peter McDermott said: “This will be a great source of potential research projects for us and should see some exciting results. These are likely to be of benefit to the wider infrastructure industry. Working on these projects will also help to make our students more employable. Industry partnerships are at the core of our new vision; AECOM is an international market leading organisation and certainly has the potential to become and exceptional industry partner.”

Philip James, Professor of Ecology, said: “Big infrastructure projects often have may unseen knock-on effects in the immediate area and also further afield. We have been and will continue to studying the wildlife in the Mersey Gateway area and the associated ecosystem services.  These lessons should then be able to be applied in future schemes.”

The project includes a new six-lane toll bridge over the River Mersey and part of AECOM’s work has focused on the complex and sensitive estuarine environment. Realising that new research about the impact of infrastructure schemes on such habitats would be beneficial to the project and to industry, AECOM and the University of Salford have formed a partnership to explore opportunities for appropriate research.

Mike Taylor, Head of Industry Partnerships, at the University, who is driving the engagement strategy across the University said: “Through industry partnerships we can deliver on our new vision by furthering our research excellence, improving student experience and employability, and contributing to the regional economy and society.

“The University can truly support AECOM to provide best-in-class services for their clients across the public and private sector. Directly working with their talented designers, planners, engineers, economists, technicians, project managers and scientists who are practiced at pulling together to achieve seamless delivery at any scale.

 “It is our aim to support our new partners with academic evaluation, embedding evidenced-based decision making within their businesses and to give them access to the creative minds of the future – our students.”

Under the new partnership, AECOM and the University will build upon their award-winning collaborative approach to research to co-fund further research that could lead to PhD studies and scientific papers. Research areas includes exploring potential issues for wildlife when working in areas with contaminated sediments; predicting disturbance to sensitive species from construction activities; and investigating perceptions of biodiversity within construction.

The partnership was signed by AECOM’s Peter Skinner and Professor Nigel Mellors at a special ceremony at the University, which was attended by representatives from both organisations. 

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