Position of this proposal
This strategic proposal maintains that Japan should strategically implement the fundamental research of integrated social infrastructure management system and the research and development of science and technology of maintenance as the effort of an entire nation aiming to find a fundamental solution to various problems associated with social infrastructures and to realize a robust and sustainable society.
Since Japan has already accumulated large amount of infrastructure, costs of the infrastructures such as maintenance, management, repair, and reinforcement are rapidly increasing, and accidents and defects caused by age-based deterioration are frequently occurring. Although there are many efforts of the industry, government, or academia to address critical issues, they are far from engaging in sufficient fundamental research and development of the foundation for efficient and effective maintenance of these social infrastructures.
Thus, this proposal uses a mid- to long-term perspective and focuses on suggesting research and development that improve methods for enabling the maintenance and upkeep of currently installed infrastructures spending the smallest social cost possible. This proposal thereby aims to build a robust and sustainable society while ensuring international competitiveness of Japan for the future.
Recognition of basic problems
Targeted social infrastructures here include public facilities for providing services such as transportation, distribution, public welfare, and information and communication as necessary for improving the welfare of the citizens and economic development. The basic point of management for minimizing the lifecycle cost of infrastructures is to properly identify conditions and functions of infrastructures and forecast future conditions and remaining service lives, and implement maintenance, management, repair, and renewal of infrastructures at proper timing by giving priorities to them based on the forecast. It is necessary to shift from evaluations and decisions of maintenance, management, and renewal that used to be often dependent on experiences and knowhow of veteran engineers to scientific processes based on data.
The development of a truly robust and sustainable society requires comprehensive management of lifecycles by breaking the boundary of conventional social infrastructure management based on the cooperation and fusion with different types of facilities and systems. This requires many new theories and achievements of research and development and a much more ambitious and larger social agreement among industry, government, academia, and the public sector than the previous most cross-sectoral program such as a Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP) of the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan.
Meanwhile, maintenance is often affected by various materials and structures of targeted infrastructures and peculiarity and uniqueness of functions and performances expected in targeted infrastructures. Thus, maintenance cannot be easily generalized or standardized as universal theories and methods. Still, efficient and reasonable implementation of technological development and education in this field are necessary, considering the massive amount of currently installed infrastructures which will require maintenance in the future and an enormous variety of types and structures of these infrastructures. That is, it is necessary to establish maintenance engineering for social infrastructures based on experiences and theories and the science of maintenance with comprehensive targets by finding common theories to individual technologies and organizing them into systems.
Overview of this proposal
Design systems and methodology of maintenance for reinforcing social infrastructures and making them sustainable cannot be achieved in a short period. Yet, we need to make efficient efforts to realize them. This strategic proposal analyzes and makes suggestions for research and development strategies as the first step of the milestone leading to the systematization of more innovative maintenance methodologies.
One example of problems in science and technology of maintenance is that currently there is no system for identifying the conditions of infrastructures and making rational decisions concerning costs and priorities of repairs to be conducted or theories that assist such processes. The science of maintenance is expected to become useful for developing advanced technologies for identifying proper timing and method of repairs, but it is still just an ideal at this point. The second best option is an economical and reasonable approach that is a systematic effort supported by technologies and data.
This strategic proposal suggests design, examination, and research and development in the following three categories for realizing a robust and sustainable society. This proposal especially suggests the fundamental research on integrated social infrastructure management system as the first step which becomes the common base of various research and development and effective management of the lifecycle of social infrastructures.
(1) Description of the vision of a robust and sustainable society to achieve
(2) Design of the lifecycle process of social infrastructures
(3) Design of integrated management system that assists the lifecycle management of social infrastructures
Design of infrastructure database focusing on the information of construction, maintenance, and management of infrastructures
Construction and operation of integrated lifecycle management system as a test
Implementation of researches on fundamental technologies using the integrated management system (Example: Identification of the conditions of infrastructures and forecasting of remaining service life, research and development of effective and efficient methods for maintenance, management, and renewal of infrastructures, and installation of systems that can be used for repairs and recovery in case of a disaster)
Along with research and development, this proposal aims to establish maintenance engineering as common technologies and the science of maintenance as a basic and universal discipline and to sophisticate research by shedding light on maintenance work that remains insufficiently examined.
Also, the realization of comprehensive maintenance of infrastructure requires the establishment of methods and systems to implement social scientific approaches to overcome restrictions of laws and organizations in addition to solving scientific and technical problems. System technologies are essential for solving problems, because social infrastructures are complicated systems in which hardware, software, and social, economic, and human activities are interconnected. This means that realistic strategies and systematic approaches are necessary at a national level for gradually shifting the styles of the current society and infrastructures to the direction of realizing ideal social visions by conducting researches of mutually dependent multifaceted and multi-layered themes under proper timeframe and effectively leading them to the next process or providing feedback.
In other words, this strategic proposal is intended to suggest research and development of fundamental technologies of infrastructure management to design, maintain, and develop a society where people can securely and safely live. The technological systems and the integrated management system of the lifecycle management of social infrastructures targeted in this proposal can become Japan’s unique technology that incorporates the perspectives of people, society, and the environment. And the proposed lifecycle management method and system also aim to be used for repairs and recovery processes in a time of disaster.
In addition, the integrated management system that will be established by applying outcomes of research and development into society and repeating operations and improvements is expected to have large influences for Japan and other countries in their implementation of international businesses in industrialized countries which have aging infrastructures along with accumulated actual data and knowhow on operation, maintenance, and inspection. Integrated management is also expected to be used as the foundation of secure and safe society that supports regions with emerging economies.