Research and Knowledge Exchange

Greening the infrastructure sector through data-driven innovation

Working with Costain, business experts have explored how using data from smart technologies can improve the cost-effective, low carbon delivery of major infrastructure projects.

The Project

Major infrastructure projects are essential for meeting economic development goals, but are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. To ensure that growth in the infrastructure sector does not come at a social and environmental cost, construction companies are being challenged to become more sustainable, efficient and technologically-enabled.

Working with Costain, one of the UK’s leading providers of engineering solutions, researchers from the University of Edinburgh Business School have been engaged in a range of activities to explore the potential for low carbon delivery of infrastructure projects. As well as producing a new tool for calculating emissions, the partnership has opened up a positive dialogue with supply chain partners on using data from construction assets to inform and improve practice.

Building on a relationship established through the AIMday model

Our relationship with Costain dates back to one of the University’s earliest AIMdays, facilitated by Edinburgh Research and Innovation, during which researchers address key challenges posed by industry. As well as a range of short, student-focused projects, two postgraduate studentships and an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Award, it has led to two funded research programmes: ReCCEL; and CITT.

Funded by Innovate UK, the Reducing Construction Carbon Emissions in Logistics (ReCCEL) project analysed how feasible it would be to deliver major infrastructure projects on time and to budget but in a more environmentally-friendly way using data from on-site assets, such as vehicles and plant. Building on the success of this project, the development of the open source Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Tool (CITT) is the first UK-based collaboration funded by Volvo CE as part of its Construction Climate Challenge.

Sharing data towards common goals

As well as developing the Business School’s strategic relationship with Costain, the projects have introduced researchers to other industry bodies, including Cenex (the UK’s first independent Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies), and Skanska.

Bringing together experts in life cycle assessment, financial modelling and qualitative research, they have also developed the University’s strengths in working across schools and disciplines.

The involvement of supply chain partners has been central to the partnership’s success, demonstrating how organisations operating at different scales can overcome barriers to sharing data and work more effectively together towards common goals.

Using academic research in this way makes Costain an industry leader, consolidating its position in the marketplace and at the forefront of the UK Government’s vision for a smarter, more sustainable construction sector by 2025.

Funded by

Various mechanisms, including an Impact Acceleration Award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), an Innovate UK grant, and Construction Climate Challenge funding from Volvo CE.


Dr Matthew Brander

Dr Roberto Rossi

Dr Francisco Ascui

Dr Kathi Kaesehage

Dr Maurizio Tomasella

Dr Belen Martin-Barragan



Edinburgh Research and Innovation

Read our news story on the University of Edinburgh’s Construction AIMday