Skip to main content

Research and Projects

About Our Work

Our work merges data and insights from infrastructure assets with new cash flows, operational efficiencies, or cost of capital projections to build new financing and business models.

Data is emerging as a separate asset class undergirding new financing options for infrastructure asset valuation and accounting.

A core challenge is how to measure, aggregate and process infrastructure data based on their digital twins.

Insights are driven by where the ultimate value is generated, much like a manufacturer refines raw material and converts it into products. With this in mind, data productization particularly for risk management and project account reporting may better provide financial accounting and investment risk-based decision-making, transparency and economic benefits for infrastructure assets.

The case for increased data disclosures (transparency) and privacy considerations, including in relation to project credit ratings and the cost of borrowing, presents an ‘on-ramp’ opportunity for data-driven valuation and financing.


Smart infrastructure financing: Why data could be the answer

Stages of Project Development

Engage corporate or government customer

We will either actively reach out to potential customers through conferences, workshops, professional activities, or receive queries through the University of Michigan Innovation Partnership portal or Alumni Engagement. A series of meetings or calls will help determine whether the partnership is a good match.

Understand customer needs

This phase seeks to understand the bounds within which the customer operates. Will this be a grant, a contract, a consulting project, and what is the time horizon for completion?

Build proof of concept (POC)

The initial POC is an early stage mockup or model of the data product or financial design concept to give the customer a vision of what will be developed. It will have limited capabilities and tends to be heavy on methods and tools used.

Test proof of concept

Typically a POC elicits many questions from the customer and requests for changes or improvements in design and capabilities. It becomes a discussion platform for development of the pilot project or use case.

Pilot project development

A pilot project builds off the POC, and is centered around a use case, a specific business need. It has more specifications and capabilities, employs real world data, and is intended to be subject to limited use by the customer.

Develop theoretical and practical understandings

The pilot phase allows us to learn from the client's use of the product, provides feedback for improvement, affords us empirical insights in the operations of the client and intended product integration. This step helps to put bounds on expectations and practical use case applications.

Technology Commercialization

Often the understandings from the pilot phase will result in a pivot on the product or its use case. Commercialization implies that a clear path to market, partnerships, and scalability is being defined, such that market participants may be willing to pay for the use or its application. Here we may spin off a company, partake in advisory boards, and help build client development.

Building Blocks

Blockchain models are changing the way that we think about storing, securing and transacting data. The Center is collaborating with blockchain companies and institutional investors to allow researchers to prototype new blockchain and tokenization applications in smart cities. We explore how they can be leveraged across industries to impact payment models, track information from distributed sensors, and design smart contracts to increase transaction efficiencies and inform new data-driven financing and business models.

Predicting Performance

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is a leader in creating and deploying sensors in our built and natural environments, giving researchers unprecedented insight into how infrastructure systems perform under environmental demands. The data generated are being explored to inform private investment strategies by predicting future performance of infrastructure. Additional means of monetizing sensed data from infrastructure are being advanced to assist asset owners with financing infrastructure maintenance.

Pricing Infrastructure

Financing our nation's infrastructure upgrades to become future-ready has become more challenging, as designs and benefits are shifting towards cyber-physical systems and digital assets. Pricing of these assets is increasingly informed by operational performance, use and value generation for its stakeholder networks, and sustainability. Data-driven value networks, the adoption of data markets, and blockchain tokenization of financial transactions will provide for a more real time pricing mechanism.