Undermining Infrastructure – avoiding the scarcity trap

September 2011 to April 2014

Prof Phil Purnell, University of Leeds

Aim: To develop a new methodology, based on enhancing stocks and flows modelling with additional information on material criticality and technology and material properties, to evaluate the resilience of low carbon infrastructure transitions to material supply risks.


  • To develop an enhanced stocks and flows model that goes beyond the representation of materials and includes the technology structures and components that contain those materials.
  • To describe the vulnerability of an infrastructure transition to supply disruption of a material, a dynamic criticality index will be developed that incorporates factors such as the geopolitics of supply, recyclability, substitutability, environmental impact and competing demands.
  • To investigate the relationship between the properties of materials and technologies that determine the design choices made when commissioning an infrastructure development and the higher-level system properties such as vulnerability to critical material supply or embedded CO2.
  • To demonstrate and refine the methodologies developed for this project throughout by a progression of case studies; beginning with studies of the roll-out of specific low-carbon technologies and leading to the transformation of interconnected infrastructure systems.