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Getting to Know the Canadian Underground Infrastructure Innovation Centre

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By Doug Downs

Recently, on episode 47 of The Safety Moment podcast, Mike Sullivan chatted with Dr. Ali Bayat, CEO of the Canadian Underground Infrastructure Innovation Centre (CUUIC). Dr. Bayat’s insights and expertise provided an in-depth look into the world of underground infrastructure, highlighting innovative approaches to managing this critical aspect of modern civilization.

Dr. Bayat, a faculty member at the University of Alberta and a driving force behind CUUIC, elaborated on the centre's mission and vision. Established in April 2022, CUUIC emerged as a fusion of two leading centres, the Centre for Advancement of Trenchless Technologies (CATT) and the Centre for Earth Energy Technologies (CETT). The new centre aims to be a world-class hub for research, education, and innovation in underground infrastructure, focusing on sustainable innovation and bridging the gap between academia and industry.

One of the critical topics discussed was the role of data in addressing risks associated with underground infrastructure. 

“My thinking is we either don't collect enough data or information or data or information is scattered. Even the ones that we have are not basically utilized to the extent that it could be utilized. We need to better comprehend, we need to better know why those risks are happening and then there might be solution and we can communicate better and say like industry startups, this is what we want.This is the core of the issue.”

Dr. Bayat emphasizes the importance of utilizing data not just for problem identification but also for developing solutions. He stresses the need for a multidisciplinary approach, involving experts from fields like sociology and psychology, to understand why certain risks are taken and how they can be mitigated.

Dr. Bayat points out that while technological advancements in tools and equipment are essential, understanding the human element behind the use of these technologies is equally crucial. The CUUIC, through its education and research initiatives, is working to address these challenges by bringing together various sectors involved in underground infrastructure.

“We have an education committee; they're focused on the entire education aspect. We run monthly webinars. And then we have these academies. These are two-day, kind of in-person, events. The format is we form a safety committee in the CUIIC. They discuss what are the key challenges or key issues that they would like. These are not fixed courses that we fix. The content is changed every year. We invite about 15 or 16 speakers that discuss different topics that are there. It's industry coming together with academia.”

The podcast episode also touched upon the challenges faced by the industry in terms of public awareness and legislative language. Dr. Bayat feels engaging with the industry is important to understand real issues and form partnerships that lead to practical solutions. He emphasizes the need for systematic improvements based on lessons learned and data-driven strategies.

The CUUIC is committed to advancing the field of underground infrastructure. By focusing on education, research, and collaboration, CUUIC is poised to make significant contributions to the industry, helping to manage risks and innovate for a sustainable future.

Listen to the full episode of The Safety Moment with Dr Bayat


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