Posts by THINKlab

MOBILISE Director Generals’ Conference in Sri Lanka

14 August 2018
MOBILISE Director Generals’ Conference in Sri Lanka

MOBILISE Director Generals’ Conference in Sri Lanka

THINKlab’s £1.2M research project MOBILISE, which is developing a digital infrastructure that can offer intelligence to a range of agencies to work together to reduce the impact of natural disasters on communities, recently held a high profile Director Generals’ Conference in Sri Lanka.

Funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the project focuses on Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Pakistan and is led by Prof Terrence Fernando. The objective of the event was to agree on an approach to strengthening multi-agency collaboration for disaster risk reduction.

The two-day round table conference involved senior government officials who discussed a collective way for implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) priority one (Understanding Risks) and priority two (Risk Governance).

Held at the Mount Lavinia Hotel on 20 and 21 June 2018, a variety of presentations and panel sessions focused on the nature of a shared disaster risk platform a collaborative multi- agency platform that can be used for building resilient communities in disaster-prone areas, as well as on joint approaches for risk modelling, assessment, mitigation, preparation and response.

Designed as a team building exercise, the first day welcomed senior officials and project partners. Prof Terrence Fernando summarised the project and discussed the aims and objectives, as well as the challenges faced by the three low-middle-income countries.

Day two opened with a discussion on Understanding Disaster Risks with the aim of defining the nature of a multi-agency shared platform for capturing and establishing a common understanding of disaster risks. Prof Fernando presented ideas for creating such a digital platform to capture risk information (one which can establish a mutual understanding of risks and possible interventions for mitigation).

A presentation on a pilot case study was given (set in Kaduwela, Sri Lanka) followed by a discussion on the best ways to establish and prove the feasibility of a multi-agency shared platform in a chosen location.

The final session, Risk Governance, analysed collaborative risk assessment, mitigation, preparation and response using the shared platform. A business scenario was used to present the challenges, possible solutions and value and also the key stakeholders that could install the platform along with the required KPIs. The presentation concluded by looking at a six-step risk assessment currently used in New Zealand, Australia and the UK.

The successful event culminated with a unanimous agreement regarding the importance of collaboration and a stated willingness to support the MOBILISE team with developing an advanced digital approach for Sri Lankan disaster risk reduction.

The project team is very grateful to everyone who came together and agreed to support the MOBILISE project in the future. A similar activity will take place in Kuala Lumpur in October 2018 to initiate a collaborative approach for disaster risk reduction in Malaysia.

To understand more about the event and read the full summary, click here.

THINKlab welcomes members the Uscore2 Greater Manchester Peer Review

18 July 2018

THINKlab were delighted to host part of a citywide event for the Uscore2 project and their Portuguese partners.

The final day of a three-day event included meetings, discussion and focus groups. The Amadora peer review team considered ‘Increase Infrastructure Resilience’ (E8a) and ‘Recovery’ (E10) with experts from Salford City Council, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, Association for Greater Manchester Authorities, Greater Manchester Resilience Forum, The Environment Agency and Urban Vision.

The Uscore2 project aims to design and test a generic, practical, city-to-city, disaster risk reduction, peer review for European and worldwide members. Salford, Viggiano and Amadora are currently piloting the project. Each has unique disaster risk profiles and are role models for the Making Cities Resilient Campaign.

Following the conclusion of the peer review, the Portuguese team will prepare a report which will help build a larger framework of resilience across Greater Manchester.

Read more about the event and the Uscore2 Project here. 

Seminar: Advancing interdisciplinary disaster risk reduction 7th Dec, 2pm-3pm

17 November 2017

“Advancing interdisciplinary disaster risk reduction”

Thursday 7th December 2017, 14:00 – 15:00

Speaker: Prof. Andrew Collins, Northumbria University
Venue: THINKlab, Maxwell Building, the University of Salford, M5 4WT

THINKlab is pleased to welcome Professor Andrew Collins to deliver a special lecture on “Advancing interdisciplinary disaster risk reduction”.

Andrew is a Professor of Disaster and Development and elected Co-Chair of UK Alliance for Disaster Research (UKADR) ( He also leads the Global Alliance of Disaster Research Institutes (GADRI).
Andrew’s research interests are the theoretical, methodological and policy aspects of disaster reduction, health ecology, sustainable development, adaptive capacity and human security in contexts of crises. This engages interlinked issues of environment and society, population displacement, risk, governance, education, environmental and disaster management internationally. He has applied this more focally to health, disease and community based strategies. His work responds to demands for societal and scientific rebalancing in changing environments. He advocates addressing hazard, risk, disaster, complex emergency and humanitarianism in an interdisciplinary and cross sector manner emphasising public rights and participation. Overall objectives include moving beyond resilience and survivability to health and wellbeing at multiple levels of disaster or development, including in relation to climate change. Prior to his role from an academic base, Andrew’s orientation in this field had developed through a variety of roles including extended voluntary service in wartime Mozambique. He regularly serves on high level advisory, review and commissioning boards for national and international organisations, conferences and research funding bodies.

For further information please contact Carla Kocsis THINKlab, Facilities Manager or 0161 295 6579.

We hope to see you there.

THINKlab Seminar Series On Local Risk, Response and Resilience Planning 27th October 2017

5 October 2017

THINKlab will be holding Seminar on Local Risk, Response and Resilience Planning 2017/2018 and deliver a special lecture to mark World Disaster Day 2017.

Speakers to include:
Chris Lowther, Chief Fire Officer, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service
Alan Robson, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

Date: Friday, 27th October, 2017, Time: 11:00-12:00
Venue: THINKlab, Maxwell Building, the University of Salford, M5 4WT


Chris Lowther has an impressive and varied background in training, community safety and operations and has taken a lead role in a number of national resilience programmes. Prior to his appointment to Chief Fire Officer in February 2017, taking up post in April 2017, Chris has held a number of roles within the fire service, including Station Officer for community safety, during which time he was instrumental in introducing home safety checks which have had a significant impact in reducing fires in the home. He sits on the Operations Coordination Committee (OCC); the lead body for Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and was the project executive for the national guidance work on transport. He has led on the introduction of Targeted Response Vehicles (TRVs), day crewing close-call shift patterns, Cobra Coldcut Technology and more efficient methods of staffing appliances whilst facilitating first-class firefighter and emergency response training.

Alan Robson, a Mechanical Engineer, began his fire and rescue service career in 1989. Prior to taking up the post of ACO, Alan was Area Manager for community safety, with responsibility for the control room, operations & resilience, fire safety and prevention & education. This included oversight of our specialist national operational functions – swiftwater rescue (SWR), urban search and rescue (USAR), detection, identification & monitoring (DIM) and high volume pump (HVP) – as well as activities such as our fire cadets and Prince’s Trust programme. He has contributed to the development of operational policy and procedures, organisational reviews and preparation for hosting large events including the recent Olympic and Rugby World Cup events. He is also the current president of the Northern Branch of the Institute of Fire Engineers.

During the inauguration lecture Chris and Alan share their experience, challenges and opportunities on future emergency service delivery through multi agency collaboration.

Click here to register your place.

£1.2m Disaster Research Management Project Secured

28 March 2017

We are delighted to have been successful in securing a £1.2m research grant from EPSRC under the Global Challenges Research Fund to Develop a “Collaborative Multi-agency Platform for Building Resilient Communities”.

The research team from the School of the Built Environment at University of Salford will be led by THINKlab Director Prof. Terrence Fernando with Dr. Chaminda Pathirage and Dr. Udayangani Kulatunga.

This project brings a strong industry partnership from UK including Cabinet Office , 100 Resilient Cities (Rockefeller Foundation), the Environment Agency, Satellite Applications Catapult Ltd, Secure IA Ltd, Telespazio Vega Ltd as well as key high profile government organisations in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Pakistan.

The scientific aspect of this project will explore real-time satellite data for constructing 3D environments of a disaster, system dynamics to support cascading effects of disasters, digital platform to assess vulnerability of communities, social media platform for collecting intelligence during disasters and multi-agency collaboration models.  We aim to develop and validate these advanced technology platforms in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Pakistan.

Click here to read more about this project


2017 THINKlab Conference Schedule

16 March 2017


Conference season is upon us once again!  Detailed below is our schedule for this year:

Smart Cities 2017 – 4th April

In partnership with Salford Professional Development, we will be hosting the 2017 Smart Cities Conference on the 4th April at AJ Bell Stadium

The Smart Cities Conference 2017 will bring together experts from government and industry to give their views on how smart technology can be used to improve the lives of the 45 million people living in the UK’s town and cities. A wide range of topics will be covered providing exclusive insights into how we can transform our urban areas to make them more efficient, more sustainable and safer. These topics will be brought to you by leading minds:

David Ludlow, Associate Professor of Smart Cities, Bristol UWE
Tim Pryce, Associate Director of Programmes Team, The Carbon Trust
Nick Chrissos, Head of Innovation Cisco Technology
Mark Saunders, UK Projects Director Centre of Excellence for Cities, Ferrovial
Chris Nicola, Head of Urban Partnerships, MKTG
Barney Smith, Chief Executive, Bristol is Open
Steve Turner, Associate, Arup
Simon Navin, Programme Manager, Smart Cities Practice, Ordnance Survey

In the North West, Manchester has established a “smart quarter” where established firms can link up with tech start-ups to collaborate and innovate new solutions to the challenges facing the city. The event will explore the growth and potential of creating connected urban areas, using technological investment and forward thinking.

Government Property & Estates – 27th April

Join us for the Government Property and Estates where leading experts will explain how the initiative could help your organisation make significant savings over the next four years. Learn how engaging with the One Public Estate programme can improve services, boost capital receipts and generate economic growth.

Smart Homes & Workplaces – 21st June

“Internet-enabled appliances, home automation components and energy management devices are moving us toward a vision of ‘smart homes’, offering more security and energy efficiency.” – The Internet Society

The internet of things (IoT) and smart technology have the capacity to make our homes more efficient and our workplaces safer. Smart homes can monitor our health and control our energy use while internet enabled censors in the workplace can track stock levels and automatically report building maintenance issues. But with these exciting advances comes a great deal of risk. Critics have suggested that too many of the current IoT enabled devices are vulnerable to cyber-attack while concerns have been raised about the privacy of staff in a workplace capable of monitoring their every move.

Join us for the Smart Homes and Workplaces Conference where leading experts in digital technology will explain how the latest innovations are shaping the buildings we live and work in. See how smarter buildings can connect colleagues and save on utility bills, understand the security risks of a fully integrated home or office and anticipate how houses and businesses can be designed with the future in mind.

Mental Health Facilities & Estates Conference – TBC

“There is clear evidence to show that if you get the environment right, this has benefits not only for people who use care services, but also for their families, friends and staff.” – Professor Martin Green, Care England    

The NHS focuses on parity between mental and physical health, it is essential that healthcare estates adapt and innovate in order to provide a safe and compassionate environment for all patients. As the NHS moves towards a community centred model of care, specialist mental health units must adapt for a new role caring specifically for patients with the most complex mental health conditions. From basic changes to layout and signage to introducing digital innovations such as wearable tech, advanced censors and telehealth initiatives, major innovations are brining mental health estates into the 21st century. Measures must also be taken to ensure that all NHS estates, including hospitals and GP surgeries, are accessible and friendly for patients with varying types of mental health problems.

Join us for the Mental Health Facilities and Estates Conference where leading experts will explain how new innovations are changing the way we care for those with serious mental health conditions. Gain insights into Government health policy, understand how mental health estates can contribute to the aims of the Five Year Forward View and be the first to see the very latest in mental health technology.

THINKlab & Network Rail partnership wins National Construction Excellence Award BIM Project of the Year

15 November 2016
From left to right: Roy Hickman, Ameet Masania, Terrence Fernando and Fred Mills

From left to right: Roy Hickman Network Rail, Ameet Masania Network Rail, Terrence Fernando THINKlab UoS and Fred Mills B1M


Our 4D BIM for Track Renewals Project with Network Rail won a National Construction Excellence Award for BIM Project of the Year!

Judges at Constructing Excellence said the technology “has the potential to be applied across the rail industry both in the UK and internationally and is an “outstanding example of a technology and digital approach being applied to drive better incomes – not just for construction and industry – but for wider society as well.”

The Director of THINKlab, Professor Terrence Fernando said: “We are thrilled to win this prestige national award from the Construction Excellence. We were up against some large organisations, but we managed to win because our innovative IT solution introduced a new way of working to reduce waste and improve efficiency of large railway projects. We hope to build on this success to bring further innovation to the building construction sector.”

Network Rail have recently signed a new contract with the THINKlab to roll the technology out across the country after successful series of trials.

Network Rail had been frequently experiencing programme overruns of its track renewals due to planning errors, costing millions of pounds and causing severe disruption to passengers. It has described the new package as a ‘game-changer’ in network planning, saving them time and money in scheduling upgrades.

The inability to effectively schedule works on complex sites was a major factor in projects overrunning.   THINKlab technologists helped Network Rail create 4-D simulations, meaning the tool can be is used for visualising and scheduling of tasks to the minute over a time period, allowing them to run different scenarios  for pre-work briefings and post-work evaluation.

“I have been planning track renewals for 17 years and this has blown me away,” says Stephen Kearney a site manager for Network Rail. “It’s suitable for small planning schemes as well as major programmes over a number of years.”

Nathan Lord, site manager at S&C South Alliance said the possibilities of the package were “unbelievable” and it gave them the confidence to know their planning for deliver more efficiency at lower cost. Head of Transformation at S&C South Alliance Steve Naybour said “this is a 4D planning package for now that will take us into the future of delivering more”

This is a fantastic achievement and we’d like to express our thanks to everybody who has contributed to its success.

Watch this video to learn more about the project.

THINKlab wins Industry Award

10 August 2016

DIGITAIMG_1060L technology from the University of Salford is proving a game-changer for the planning of Britain’s rail network upgrades – and a prize-winner!

Network Rail has signed a new contract with the University to roll the technology out across the country after successful series of trials.

The revolutionary 4-D simulation developed with S&C South Alliance, has received a host of plaudits including winning BIM Project of the Year at the North West Regional Construction Awards, held on the 30th June 2016.

The Director of THINKlab at the University of Salford, Professor Terrence Fernando said: “We are thrilled that our long-term contribution to Network Rail’s work is now having a real impact on the business at a national level.


Power of digital

“The company are describing the new package as a ‘game-changer’ in rail network planning which really shows the power of digital technology in engineering.”

The inability to effectively schedule works on complex sites was a major factor in projects overrunning. THINKlab technologists helped Network Rail create 4-D simulations, meaning the tool can be is used for visualising and scheduling of tasks to the minute over a time period, allowing them to run different scenarios for pre-work briefings and post-work evaluation._KWE0373

“I have been planning track renewals for 17 years and this has blown me away,” says Stephen Kearney a site manager for Network Rail. “It’s suitable for small planning schemes as well as major programmes over a number of years.”

Nathan Lord, site manager at S&C South Alliance said the possibilities of the package were “unbelievable” and it gave them the confidence to know their planning for deliver more efficiency at lower cost. Head of Transformation at S&C South Alliance Steve Naybour said “this is a 4D planning package for now that will take us into the future of delivering more”

Network Rail has now created a steering committee involving senior staff, to work with THINKlab to ensure the 4D simulation environment becomes an integral part of Network Rail future track renewal programmes.

Project of the Year

Judges at the North West Regional Construction Awards said of the winning project:

“The challenge was clear and unambiguous. The inability to effectively schedule works on complex sites was a major factor in projects overrunning. The development of 4D BIM had not yet been adopted by the rail industry due to the difficulty of using the tools. This innovation uses advancements in gaming technology to bridge the knowledge gap and provide a visualisation system that is easy for multiple stakeholders to understand and has led to dramatic improvements in the ream performance.”


THINKlab will now be put forward to the Constructing Excellence National Final, which will take place later in the year.

See how the package works in this company video.

THINKlab Project shortlisted for North West Regional Construction Awards 2016

6 June 2016

The THINKlab team are delighted that our project with Network Rail on 4D Simulation Environments for Track Renewal Programmes has been shortlisted for North West Regional Construction Awards 2016 – BIM Project of the year.

THINKlab have been working with Network Rail to create a range of real world 3D and 4D simulation modules which can be used to support track renewal programmes. To date this work has included :

  • Design Review Module: To allow teams to collectively explore the emerging designs to avoid any design faults.
  • 4D Simulation Module: To allow the planners to translate 2D schedules into an interactive animation sequence to illustrate deconstruction & construction operations within a given site in 3D.
  • Laser Data Mapper Module: To allow the positioning of laser scanned track data onto a 3D GIS environment and make accurate measurements to support operation and maintenance.

Nick Millington, Project Director at Network Rail said “Senior management have realised the potential for the platform in supporting future track renewal programmes and as a result Network Rail have deployed the simulation environment developed by THINKlab to ten major track renewal programmes across the UK. Through this implementation we hope to deploy this platform as key catalyst to introduce an innovative way of planning future track renewal programmes.”

Network Rail Laser Data Mapper using RILA

Network Rail Laser Data Mapper using RILA

The modules have already been used to support four live track renewal programmes including the West Coast Main Line, Watford Junction, Colton Crossover and Wichnor Crossover.

It has been a great opportunity for the THINKlab team to apply our modelling and visualisation skills in supporting a complex project such as track renewal programmes. This complex simulation environment has been designed and delivered to the Network Rail team within a short period of time and it has now been used to simulate four sites so far.

These modules have replaced the previous planning meetings around a simple whiteboard and now provide an interactive system that allows the teams to navigate the schedules in real time moving between tasks seamlessly in order to brief teams, plan labour, materials and equipment requirements, and to visualise potential scheduling issues.

“The models have assisted the delivery team in the preparation of core works and also have considerable health and safety benefits; they have been well received by all the parties utilising the outputs.”
Basharat Mahfooz, Scheme Project Manager, Network Rail

“Network Rail, working in collaboration with Fugro Raildata and Salford University THINKlab have developed 4D geospatially-accurate modelling designs for today, building a better railway for a better Britain.”
Roy Hickman, Network Rail

“The 4D modelling helped us with the staging of our works, so as to reduce any clashes before we go on site. Without it, we would have incurred additional cost and time in the delivery of the works! It has become an integral tool in the way we deliver railway jobs.”
Ameet Masania, Network Rail

Click here to watch our video demonstrations of the modules.

For more details of our services please email

The Future of Smart Cities

21 April 2016

The United Nations estimates that currently, 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. These parts of our planet are hubs of human ingenuity and efficiency integral to regional economies, but are also responsible for much of earth’s environmental degradation and can be centres for unrest and crime.

With the UN predicting that the proportion of people living in urban areas will account for 66% of human habitation by 2020, the opportunities these places present will grow, and the challenges they pose will only loom larger, as this decade draws to its close. In an attempt to solve the problems inherent to urban life, policy makers are turning to ‘smart cities’, which are harnessing digital and telecommunication technologies for the benefit of inhabitants and businesses.

In the North of England the advantages of smart cities are being utilised to provide the economic growth, infrastructure improvements, emission reductions and crime prevention required to deliver the Government’s ambitious Northern Powerhouse.




The potential of smart cities was the subject of a high-level conference entitled ‘The Future of Smart Cities’ #CitieSmart led by THINKlab on the 19th April at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester.

Delegates - full to capacity

Delegates – full to capacity

The conference was chaired by Prof. Terrence Fernando, Director of THINKlab, who organised the conference with the UoS standalone training company Salford Professional Development, explains: “Smart cities of the future should deploy the power of modern digital technologies to create safer, cleaner and economically prosperous cities for citizens to have an enjoyable quality of life without damaging the environment.

“In this conference, we explored new partnership models, the role of technologies and smart applications to realise this vision.”


The conference was opened by Prof. Hisham Elkadi, Dean of the School of the Built Environment.  The one-day gathering was attended by 300+ delegates from both UK and International Industry and academic organisation and featured speakers from SmarterUK, Clicks and Links, Arup, Cisco Systems, OCF, Siemens, Transport for Greater Manchester, the UHSM Academy and Manchester City Council.

Keynote Speaker Dan Byles SmarterUK

Keynote Speaker Dan Byles SmarterUK












The conferences comprised of two keynote speakers, seven main presentations, eight seminars, exhibitions and networking sessions. During the conference, speakers presented the lessons learnt from other smart city projects, technical challenges in developing smart cities as well as how smart cities could help in providing efficient health & social care, energy and transport. There was a common agreement that the smart city should be citizen centric and develop as open system allowing SMEs to develop innovative solutions.


Keynote Speaker Gerben Kijne, Clicks & Links

Keynote Speaker Gerben Kijne, Clicks & Links












View full programme of speakers at: