ITRC-MISTRAL: Multi-scale Infrastructure Systems Analytics


ECI lead: Prof Jim Hall

The Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC) created a globally unique set of simulation models and methodologies to enable long-term cross-sectoral planning of sustainable and resilient infrastructure systems. 

The programme was a consortium of seven UK universities led by the University of Oxford, which collaborated with partners in government, industry, academia and international organisations at global, national and regional scales.

Our work

Fast track analysis

Early in the project, a Fast Track analysis focused on estimating future infrastructure capacity and demands, including the cross-sectoral dependencies between sectors. When Infrastructure UK was created in 2010, ITRC was able to help with the Fast Track analysis and analysed the first National Infrastructure Plan and Infrastructure UK’s Infrastructure Pipeline.

National infrastructure modelling

As the programme proceeded, intermediate complexity models were integrated with a shared software framework and underpinning database (NISMOD-DB), to deliver a fully integrated national infrastructure assessment. ITRC also developed a high-resolution model of Britain’s interdependent infrastructure networks for analysis of infrastructure risk and vulnerability: NISMOD-RV, which was used to analyse vulnerabilities in the transport network for the Department of Transport.

UNOPS collaboration

Prof Jim Hall was contacted by Nick O’Regan from the UN Office for Project Services, who realised that ITRC’s system-of-systems methodology could help UNOPs to achieve its new overarching strategy to proactively engage with infrastructure planning and ‘build back better’.

Customised versions of NISMOD informed national infrastructure for the Governments of Curacao and St Lucia which have informed government policy, investment decisions and adaptation planning.


The second phase of funding, the Multi-Scale Infrastructure Systems Analytics (MISTRAL) programme extended NISMOD from being a national scale model:

  • Upscale: incorporating global interconnections via telecommunications, transport and energy networks.
  • Across-scale: to national settings outside the UK, where infrastructure needs are greatest and systems analysis is a business opportunity for UK engineering firms.

The consortium developed a new version of NISMOD-LP, which enabled analysis at high spatial resolutions. GCEN+ represented local renewable energy networks, heat networks and hydrogen as an ‘energy hub’. A collaboration with Water UK, the Environment Agency and water companies in England and Wales created the first national-scale water supply infrastructure simulation model which was coupled with the energy model to analyse drought risks to power plants and the impacts on energy markets.

International applications

Developments in NISMOD-RV fully integrated interdependencies and cascading failure between electricity, road, rail, water and digital communications infrastructures, resulting in an analysis of the resilience of Britain’s infrastructure. Studies using NISMOD-RV in Tanzania, Vietnam and Argentina quantified the resilience of multi-model transport networks, the economic risks of supply chain disruption and the benefits of investment in resilience. ITRC conducted the first global analysis of natural hazard risk to road and rail infrastructure using more than 60million km of data from OpenStreetMap.

Oxford-Cambridge Arc, DAFNI and beyond

NISMOD has been used to analyse alternative scenarios of development for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and to analyse decarbonisation pathways for the regional transport strategy. The model provides a shared platform for the many Arc stakeholders to map out alternative spatial development strategies to meet the goals of sustainable economic development.

DAFNI (Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure) provides a secure home for the UK’s infrastructure data and systems modelling.

Green infrastructure

Alison Smith explored methods for integrating the analysis of green infrastructure into the NISMOD infrastructure system-of-systems model of housing, transport, energy, water and communications. By mapping and assessing natural capital in the Oxford-Cambridge Growth Arc case study area, Alison demonstrated the potential impact of different spatial development scenarios on natural capital and the ecosystem services it delivers. In the longer term, this could contribute to developing a Green Vision scenario that protects and enhances natural capital, and builds in new green infrastructure to minimise the loss of ecosystem services due to development.