The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) Fellowship Programme was launched in September 2020 with a vision to develop a global multi-disciplinary pool of future-ready professionals and practitioners who will help shape a resilient future for global infrastructure systems.
A 12-month seed grant, the Fellowship provides financial support as well as peer learning and capacity development opportunities to foster transformative, actionable and scalable solutions for real world issues related to disaster resilience of infrastructure. Promising solutions with demonstrated applicability and potential for scale, emerging from the Programme will be disseminated through the Coalition’s network and opportunities for their implementation across contexts will be identified. The value proposition of the CDRI Fellowship Programme lies in its potential to contribute to real solutions to real problems, while informing the larger discourse on resilient infrastructure.
For the first Cohort of the Fellowship Programme, CDRI received a total of 143 applications from 12 countries. Following a rigorous three-tier review and selection process, in March 2021, CDRI awarded Fellowships to 21 teams from nine countries including Afghanistan, Australia, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Peru, Thailand, United Kingdom, and United States of America.
Each team received a grant of US$ 10,000 to build upon their proposed solutions for emerging and existing issues related to resilience of infrastructure. The research projects represent a diverse mix from solutions ranging from strengthening road resilience using landslide susceptibility models, incorporating resilience in ports, using AI and machine learning to strengthen communications, monitoring river migration at sites of critical bridge infrastructure and developing future wetlands inventory for disaster risk reduction in the Himalayan region.
Cohort 2021-22 have completed their Fellowship with CDRI, demonstrating considerable progress in their research projects, despite challenging conditions including the Covid pandemic and geopolitical flux. Some of the actionable solutions emerging from this Cohort are summarized below:
- Dr Vasant Matsagar from IIT Delhi has developed an innovative structural protection system for resilient hospital buildings against multiple hazards such as earthquakes and fires. Specifically, novel lightweight and fire-resistant fiber-reinforced bearings (FRBs) for retrofitting of the hospital buildings under multi-hazard scenarios have been designed, fabricated, and tested numerically as well as experimentally against the anticipated loading scenarios. Technology development and translational research conducted in this Fellowship project has led to patentable end-products of two variants of the tri-axially braided functionally graded natural FRB devices and retrofit processes for immediate field applications in real-life hospital buildings. Thus, lab-to-land tech-transfer goal has also been adequately achieved. The project has also received funding for further scale-up from an industry partner.
- Shifting rivers represent a geomorphic hazard at sites of critical bridge infrastructure, particularly in rivers where migration rates are high. As part of their research project, Dr Richard Boothroyd and team from UK have designed a user-friendly web-application that enables stakeholders to monitor the relative risk of river migration by analyzing thousands of satellite images. The “InfraRivChange” web-application can be used as a low-cost remote sensing approach to monitor shifting rivers at sites of critical bridge infrastructure. It can also be applied to other critical infrastructure adjacent to rivers (e.g., road, rail and pipelines) and extended elsewhere to other dynamic riverine settings.
- Dr Pushp Bajaj and Dr Chime Youdon, National Maritime Foundation, India conducted a study to assess the threats posed by climate change in the form of more intense and frequent extreme weather events and sea-level rise to India’s port infrastructure and operations. A climate-change-risk assessment framework and methodology were created which utilize a combination of available climatic data, field-based research, and expert-interviews with port officials to generate “climate-risk profiles” of Indian ports. The framework was tested and implemented through case studies of two of India’s major ports, namely, the Mumbai Port Authority and the Paradip Port Authority. Findings from the two ports were compared to bring out the differences and commonalities in the challenges facing individual ports. This study reflects a critical first step towards developing a comprehensive climate-adaptation and resilience strategy for India’s maritime trade sector. The natural extension of this study would be to expand the scope of the climate-risk assessments to a pan-India level and regional level wherein cooperation on climate change adaptation of seaports could be explored among countries within the Indian Ocean Region.
During their Fellowship, in the true spirit of peer learning, some of the Fellows have driven a Community of Practice seeded within the Cohort, sharing knowledge and resources on topics related to resilience of infrastructure.
The CDRI Fellowship Programme continues to evolve; the second Cohort of Fellows (2022-23) comprising 14 teams from 11 countries was onboarded in July 2021 and is heading towards its second quarterly progress review. CDRI will soon be launching the call for applications for its third Cohort of Fellows. The Fellows, across Cohorts, past and present, form a vibrant global community of champions for resilient infrastructure and CDRI ambassadors, advocating for resilient infrastructure systems in a growingly uncertain future.