Back in 2003, an enthusiastic bunch of asset managers across industry and academia collaborated in a bid to position engineering asset management in Australia as world leading.

With federal funding, the result was the establishment of the Cooperative Research Centre for Integrated Engineering Asset Management, or CIEAM as it quickly became affectionately known.

CIEAM certainly achieved its goal and created an enviable record of innovative intellectual property in asset management. Back in 2003, asset management was often seen at the ‘fix it when it breaks’ level. While there may have been maintenance schedules for individual plant and machinery assets, often similar to warranty schedules for automotive maintenance, these schedules were unrelated to the actual health of the asset, and entirely disconnected in a direct sense, from the management systems of the enterprise.

CIEAM made considerable progress on the vertical integration of the asset management processes, through which measurements of the condition of an individual machine are used to make predictions of residual life, which in turn was related to higher-level decision making processes in the enterprise.

In its rebid for continuing Cooperative Research Council (CRC) funding in 2009, a subtle name change took place – the term “Integration” was replaced with “Infrastructure” to ensure that infrastructure assets were included in the centre’s agenda. At that time, there was also growing community concern with respect to potential climate change impacts, and sustainability. In response to this concern, a program was included in the rebid to research and promote sustainability and climate change as essential considerations in all asset management decision-making.

Both of these changes coincided with the establishment of what was then the Australian Green Infrastructure Council (AGIC), set up by industry to develop the world’s first full sustainability rating scheme for infrastructure. CIEAM and AGIC developed a close working arrangement to ensure that the sustainability rating scheme had the backing of credible research, and that the embedding of sustainability as an essential consideration in asset decision-making would enhance the take up of AGIC’s rating scheme.

In 2012, AGIC changed its name to the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) to move away from the term “Green Infrastructure,” which has been adopted by the landscape community to describe infrastructure that supports the reestablishment of natural regrowth and so called “green walls” and “green roofs.” The name change also aligned with the adopted name for the rating scheme – “Infrastructure Sustainability” or the IS rating.

In 2010, CIEAM was granted funding to continue its work for another three years. There is no doubt that CIEAM has established an international lead in initiating appropriate research and delivering outcomes that have been adopted by industry. It also developed international leadership networks that led to the set up of the International Society of Engineering Asset Management (ISEAM) and the now established series of World Congresses on Engineering Asset Management (WCEAM).

Outcomes from CIEAM research that secured Australia’s reputation as a world leader in asset management innovation include:

  • The creation of industry-ready tools and methodologies with application from the policy and governance levels to the cutting edge of specific implementation in an organisation. Industry focus was assured through the engagement of asset-operators and asset service and software providers in research programs.
  • Software that can assist infrastructure constructors and operators in monitoring performance of their projects and assets against the IS rating criteria.
  • Research reports showing successful sustainability initiatives on infrastructure projects.
  • Resources such as Why Infrastructure Sustainability is Good for Your Business, as well as others in a similar vein.

The CRC contract and Commonwealth funding ceased at the end of June 2013, and in accordance with a CRC requirement, CIEAM transitioned into a private industry funded research body known as the Asset Institute. Asset Institute funding now comes entirely from partner membership and agreed research projects. Under the transition arrangements, the Asset Institute has full commercial access to all the intellectual property from CIEAM and will continue to develop this IP in collaboration with its industry members. Knowing that asset management issues we face here in Australia are not unique to this country, and that issues like sustainability and climate change are a global problem, the Asset Institute proposes a strong international reach.

The Asset Institute, based at QUT in Brisbane will draw together an established network of industry experts, professional bodies, government agencies and research institutions. The Institute’s broad work plan is designed to predict and identify potential challenges facing infrastructure and engineering assets in order to connect partners to find innovative solutions to real problems.

The Asset Institute will focus on seven research and delivery themes:

  • A design and construction theme will look at ways in which built assets can meet the needs of their owners/stewards to increase productivity.
  • An organisation and planning theme will undertake applied research to look at strategy, planning, organisational structures and institutional arrangement changes to achieve the full potential of technological and engineering outputs.
  • An integration and interoperability theme will research information about assets and their management through integration of internal systems and external information.
  • An asset health and analytics theme will use CIEAM-developed models and algorithm libraries to develop new applications for asset health management and risk-based multi-criteria optimal decisions.
  • A recovery and continuity theme involves defining approaches to designing and implementing effective recovery and continuity management practices for assets and infrastructure systems in concentrated and geographically dispersed locations.
  • A Sustainability and resilience theme will focus on design and management strategies to enhance the resilience of assets and also research the delivery of sustainability outcomes from asset management.
  • An asset learning and development theme will allow learners to explore and utilise asset management knowledge in their workplace.