Written by Professor Jim Hall, University of Oxford and Chair of the DAFNI Governance Board

In the last few weeks there have been some significant steps towards creating DAFNI, the Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure.

DAFNI delivery team and Governance Board

DAFNI’s delivery team at STFC, led by Sam Chorlton, has been working intensively to develop the core software platform for DAFNI, commission the first hardware purchases, and deliver the first DAFNI pilots. Two pilots, one based on the Cambridge digital communications model and a second focussed on transport systems modelling, are testing DAFNI’s capabilities for data handling, computation and visualisation. We will soon be at the point where DAFNI is already fulfilling its purpose of enabling transformative infrastructure systems research.

Meanwhile, DAFNI’s delivery team and Governance Board have continued to explore options for a sustainable funding model for DAFNI at the end of the capital delivery programme in April 2021. An important step towards this has been development of a “Statement of Community Need” submission to EPSRC, which makes the case for why DAFNI should become an essential part of the UK’s shared national research infrastructure and therefore receive some ongoing operational support from EPSRC. We have had overwhelming support from the research community, business and government for the Statement of Community Need, which included more than 100 signatories, and a series of compelling expressions of why DAFNI is so important for infrastructure systems research and practice in this country.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has written to the National Infrastructure Commission, formally requesting the NIC to conduct a study on infrastructure resilience.

In the terms of reference for this study, the Chancellor wrote: “Over recent years there have been improvements in the understanding of infrastructure interdependencies. The development of the Data & Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure provides a particular opportunity to undertake an in-depth analysis of resilience, working with key stakeholders, to inform a future approach ahead of the next National Infrastructure Assessment.” It is encouraging to see this level of recognition of the opportunity that DAFNI provides for UK infrastructure systems analysis.

Delivery of DAFNI

The delivery of DAFNI is being overseen by the Governance Board, with the advice of our Expert Review Board. The Expert Review Board joined the last Governance Board meeting, which was an opportunity for them to question and advise the delivery team. DAFNI is a complex project, so it is essential that we have the advice of some of the UK’s most experienced software systems experts. The Expert Review Group were able to endorse DAFNI’s design, whilst making a number of suggestions for how the system could be delivered to the highest software engineering standards, whilst also managing the inevitable risks of an ambitious software project.

The work by the DAFNI team at STFC to engage with DAFNI’s potential user community in universities, government and business is intensifying. DAFNI is supporting infrastructure-related research across 8 Centres for Doctoral Training proposals totalling ~400 students. Significant steps have already been made to obtain access to datasets that are essential for infrastructure research. Engagement with government and the private sector is identifying several areas where DAFNI could add value. The vision of DAFNI becoming a transformative platform for infrastructure systems analysis is coming into sight.

DAFNI Showcase and latest news

You can follow all these developments by signing up to our news updates. You may also be interested in attending our DAFNI Showcase event which has been arranged for the 10th and 11th June 2019 at The Royal Society, London. For more information contact Marion Samler, who is the DAFNI Partnership Manager.

Jim Hall
Chair of the DAFNI Governance Board

15th November 2018