What is ICER’s approach to quality assurance?

Quality assurance is achieved through a:

  • Focus on meeting the customer targets through clearly defined aims and objectives
  • Focus on identifying, eliminating or reducing, and mitigating project risks
  • Focus on efficient use of technology
  • Maintenance of independence when working with customers and other stakeholders.

We are experienced with project management to provide independent assessments to determine the nature and appropriateness of suggested projects, and help ensure that the correct project required to meet the aims and objectives set is planned appropriately. We are experienced with tracking the progress of the project relative to expectations, and in implementing appropriate control and mitigation on occasions when milestones are not met and projects deviate from the planned course. This requires the ability to identify potential risks in project-critical areas, including project management, team composition, methodology, and delivery of outputs. We monitor and assess project status and methods against a roadmap outlined with the customer to identify potential risks and reflect on areas where we may be able to improve in the future. This is facilitated often through independent review of our projects, and ultimately in many cases through the peer review process when outputs are selected for publication in the wider peer reviewed literature. Throughout our projects we discuss progress and other issues (e.g. project design) with our customers to ensure that the quality is as expected, and reflect on feedback provided. In the event that projects are behind schedule or in danger of not meeting expectations, we have a process of evaluation to assess project position against schedule, budget, quality of results, or not fully implemented. This information is used, in collaboration with the customers, to identify and develop methods to remove, or mitigate for, impediment to progress. We monitor the effectiveness of any changes made to the project.

What is ICER’s approach to project management?

The International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research (ICER) at the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences follows the University of Southamptons procedures related to project management.

The University has a wealth of experience in managing projects and individual client accounts. In 2012/13, the University received £102m in grants and contracts from Research Councils, Government Departments, industry, commerce and the EU (source: University Financial Statements). The University has developed the business processes to deliver projects to the highest standards and deadlines through effective project and programme management. There is a great deal of experience in delivering projects to a variety of clients to commercial timescales and standards. For any contracts commissioned we propose to:

  • nominate a dedicated account manager (and a suitably qualified deputy to act in his or her absence) within the University as a single point of contact
  • attend periodic Contract review meetings to discuss the performance of the Contract, the frequency of such meetings to be agreed between both parties or as required by the Client
  • have a commitment to customer service and a clearly-defined complaints resolution procedure
  • be proactive in monitoring our own performance against the Contract and immediately reporting any potential difficulties in fulfilling the terms of the Contract
  • agree Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the Contract and provide related management information in a format and frequency to be agreed with the Client

Our management approach is sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of the customer and can be adapted according to project needs. Typical projects involve regular meetings between the account manager and the customer during which predetermined objectives are tracked against a planned road map. The project is usually managed by an experienced ICER MT (Management Team). Meetings may take place with the  representatives formally once each month (depending on the customers requirements). The ICER MT will be responsible monitoring project progress and customer satisfaction, and ensuring that research objectives are met.

Day to day management of the portfolio of projects will be the responsibility of the ICER Director (Dr Paul Kemp), supported by the ICER academic team. Day to day management of an individual project will be at the level of the principle researcher selected based on experience relative to the aims of the project. The Director, supported by the team, will ensure that appropriate processes are in place, milestones and targets are achieved, and that impediments to successful delivery are identified and removed.

Reporting of project delivery will be achieved under the directorship of ICER in line with the requirements of the customer set out during contract development and discussed at preliminary or start-up meetings. Reflective review at the end of each project involving both ICER and the customer will ensure incremental improvements in services provided.

How do ICER address the management of sustainability impacts through the delivery of services?

At ICER we embed the principles of sustainability into our work, including reducing carbon emissions and minimising our environmental impact.

For more information about our sustainability policy see:

Sustainability:  As part of our service delivery an assessment is made of potential environmental impacts of proposed work. Processes are put in place for work we conduct, both on campus, or at external sites in collaboration with the customer, to eliminate, reduce or mitigate for these impacts. For example, as part of our operations in delivery of services ICER operates in line with the University’s vision to embed sustainability principles into the University’s work, including the operations of all campuses, reducing our carbon emissions and minimising our environmental impact.

Procurement and Waste:  We employ sustainable procurement methods to take environmental and social factors into account in purchasing decisions – looking at where products come from and how they are made. The University has a Sustainable Procurement and Waste Management Policy and Action Plan, which fits into our overarching sustainability strategy. We identify and reduce the environmental and social impacts of our purchases. The University has a Sustainable Procurement and Waste Management Group to bring together members of staff responsible for purchasing, catering and waste management to deliver the plan. We also have our own corporate E-bay/Freecycle system (WARP-it) which allows staff to redistribute unwanted and underused assets within the University to avoid unnecessary purchases and throwing items away. Common practice within the University is to share equipment using an innovative system based on our successful Open Data service to facilitate the sharing of research facilities and high value equipment between and within UK universities. We have an extensive recycling Scheme that allows more recycling at the University than at other traditional business sectors.

Estates and Biodiversity:  When managing our estate we are committed to promoting the principles of sustainable development in all of our activities, and aim to provide an attractive landscape for the benefit of both people and wildlife. We have set aside specific areas within the estate for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity. Key commitments of the Biodiversity Policy include ‘Gardening for Wildlife’, whereby the University will seek opportunities to maintain and enhance habitats by planting species that provide food and shelter for wildlife. When developing our estate, the University seeks to build new, refurbish or maintain the existing estate to a high quality to deliver world class facilities to support the services we provide. We expect our building contractors to implement robust environment and sustainability policies and procedures to deliver high quality buildings and finishes.

Energy and Carbon:  We are committed to helping to achieve UK Government national targets to reduce CO2 emissions, and we have implemented a Carbon Management Plan to ensure we do. Our key target is to reduce carbon emissions from energy consumption by 20% by 2020 (based on a 2005/06 baseline). We will use our extensive Automatic Meter Read (AMR) system to record energy use and monitor the impact of our efforts to reduce consumption. We will ensure our IT systems are designed to minimise energy use.

Transport: The best way to reduce travel is to avoid it in the first place. The University supports a flexible approach to work:

  • Flexible working policy
  • Flexi-time
  • Job share
  • Voluntary reduced hours
  • Working time regulations
  • Carer information pack
  • Video and tele-conferencing – this technology can be used instead of travelling to events and meetings. This not only reduces the impact of travel but makes more efficient use of staff time. View the ISolutions web pages for full details on how to set up a video conference

As one of the UK’s leading research institutions, we have an important role to demonstrate leadership by promoting sustainability in all that we do. Our corporate strategy commits us to making a positive impact on society and highlights our role as a globally responsible University.

What is ICER’s approach to health and safety risk management when delivering projects?

The International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research approach to health and safety falls within that for the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences and the University of Southampton. The Vice-Chancellor (VC) and University Council are ultimately accountable for Health & Safety (H&S) at the University. The VC shares a collective responsibility for H&S with The University Executive Group (UEG). Each UEG member is then specifically responsible for H&S within their Faculty/ Service/Academic Unit. They ensure there is conformity to the University’s Health & Safety Management System (HSMS) and provide the necessary resources, infrastructure, processes and information and competence assistance to fulfil the policy statement.

At an operational level, a Safety and Occupational Health Team (led by the Safety and Occupational Health Manager) provides the systems and advice to enable staff and managers of the University of Southampton to ensure Health and Safety issues are managed appropriately. The Safety and Occupational Health team deals with subjects relating to the following areas: a) risk assessment and management; b) fire safety; c) radiation protection; d) laser safety ; e) provision of health and safety policies and guidance notes ; f) occupational health services ; g) biological safety, and so forth.

On a day-to-day basis, Managers, supervisors and leaders (those directing the activities of others, including staff operation under the framework agreement) ensure that staff, students and others have training, information and supervision, and set a good example to the staff and/or students they manage/lead in regard to H&S. All new-start staff have H&S induction training. Managers have H&S managers training. H&S training needs are identified, including specific training directly related to work.

The effective management of Health & Safety is an important element in our success. Good practice in Health & Safety performance protects our staff, students and other, from harm. It supports all our activities by preventing disruption to our business, with the loss of valuable assets, and harm to our reputation. It is also consistent with our commitment to social responsibility.

Therefore the University of Southampton is committed to conducting its undertakings in a manner that protects the health and safety of its employees, students and others affected by its undertaking. In addition to complying strictly with the health and safety measures required by legislation and other related standards to which it subscribes, it is the University’s policy to promote and take all reasonably practicable steps for the prevention of injury and ill health of its employees and others who may be affected by its actions.

There is a dedicated Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) team that deals with subjects relating to specific areas (e.g. risk assessment and management, fire safety etc.). The role of the SOH team is to ensure that the University provides a safe working environment for all staff, students and visitors; all activities are undertaken in a safe manner; and the University complies with the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act and other relevant legislation. The SOH team has also developed a Health and Safety Management System (HSMS) to implement the University of Southampton Health and Safety Policy Statement. Safety Officers provide advice on the standards to be met and where these are not being met.

Advice and guidance about accident reporting and what to do in an emergency is clearly signposted and available on the University’s intranet in the Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) section.

There are clear processes on the reporting of accidents/incidents/near misses and actions that must take place as a result. After an accident has been reported/follow-up investigation: Line managers and those involved will review the facts and any associated risk assessments to determine what follow up action is required. This can take the form of a more detailed investigation or simply altering a working practice each circumstance will, be different. This should be done with 5 working days of the accident occurring. If remedial actions are required these should be added to the Faculty or Service’s existing Health & Safety plans and followed up as part of the Faculty/Service H&S Committee.

Review cycle: Risk assessments are reviewed periodically, at least every two years, or sooner if inherent risk is high. Risk assessments must also be reviewed after incidents, after changes to the task/activity, if staff raise concerns, if there is a relevant change to the law or other relevant standards, or if there is anything to suggest the assessment is not suitable and sufficient.

How does ICER deal with the management of account contracts?

The International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research operates under the Universities procedures for resolution of disputes. The University prides itself on being a responsible collaborator/service provider and endeavors not to withdraw from contractual commitments unless there is a substantial reason to do so. In the event problems arise with a project or service contract the University will always consult with the contracting party in an attempt to resolve problems that have arisen and to agree the appropriate way forward.

The University defines a complaint as any specific concern about service-related provision. The University Calendar is the reference point for anyone involved with handling complaints as it details the processes that have been established. It is the intention of the University to use the Complaints Procedure in a positive spirit.

If the complaint could not be resolved at this stage it would be escalated and reviewed by a panel chaired by the Associate Dean for Research and Enterprise. Any complaint that could not be resolved at this stage would be referred upwards to the Dean of Faculty.

Each Dean will monitor, on an annual basis, complaints which have been referred to him or her and will be responsible for implementing, or recommending to the appropriate authority, changes to systems or procedures suggested by the nature and pattern of the complaints received.

How does ICER manage the competencies of its core team?

The University of Southampton is world leading in Research, Education, and Enterprise. Our staff work at the cutting-edge of their disciplines and hence competencies are not only maintained but developed to the highest possible level. One key element of our core business is training the next generation of world leading scientists and engineers. To do this, staff must keep up with the state-of-the-art developments in their field, and hence as part of their individual performance appraisal, training needs are identified relative to skills gap and development analysis. The Director of ICER is also the Director of a Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (CDT-SIS) which is funded by UK Government through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to deliver innovative PhD level training. The training programme is also designed to benefit staff as knowledge transfer travels along a longitudinal continuum, not only in the top-down direction (tutor-to-student), but bottom-up (student-to-tutor) and lateral (peer-to-peer) direction. This method of training was developed after extensive discussion with industrial and other partners, and in line with developing international thinking, we believe provides the very best basis for achieving the step changes needed to address the environmental challenges such as those experienced in fisheries. All staff engaged with this framework are also involved in training on a variety of programmes, including those in Environmental Science and Engineering. They are regularly encouraged to attend appropriate training course, workshops, and conferences to enhance competency. These frequently include training through the acquisition of industrial / other and international experience.

The Worlds challenges are constantly evolving. In recognition of this the University regularly enhances its knowledge base through recruitment of gifted scientists and engineers. Several recent appointments in water engineering and environmental science, including in ecohydraulics, indicates continued growth and development of competency in relative fields.

Management of competency within the International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research falls under the processes adopted by the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Strategic aims for research development and growth are set by the University strategic management team. The development of Engineering and Physical Sciences is a key aim of the University of Southampton.
  • Based on the strategic aims of the University, the Faculty implements its own strategic plan. Developing ecohydraulics and environmental science, including fisheries management and engineering is forefront of the Faculties plans.
  • Gaps in current skill base, or strategic areas to be developed based on upcoming challenges, are identified by the faculty management group.
  • Recruitment of new staff to fill competency / knowledge gaps or to replace those that are lost (e.g. through retirement or leaving the University).
  • Personnel performance appraisals help identify where existing staff members would like to enhance their skills development.
  • Time and resources are budgeted annually for staff development (e.g. participation on training courses, workshops, conferences, new software etc.).
  • Delivery of novel and innovative training programmes and involvement in research and enterprise activities ensures that staff skills and experience are enhanced (e.g. on-the-job training).

It is the responsibility of the Director of ICER to ensure that the competencies of the staff involved are sufficiently high enough to achieve the aims and objectives set in collaboration with customers and partners on specific projects. Due to the strong international links the Director can also call on experts and advice provided by other world leading scientists and engineers.

What laboratory facilities are available to ICER?

The International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research facility based at the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences include the Chilworth site that is housed within a long engineering building consisting of a one and half storey elongated unit of mainly brick construction over a reinforced concrete frame with corrugated roof above. The premises have historically been used as an engineering research facility for ecohydraulics and ecoacoustics. The total site is approx. 123m long and 76m wide (9348m2). The engineering building is approx. 84m long and 18m wide (1512m2). The external engineering enclosure (flumes) is approx. 82m long and 25m wide (2050m2).   A research agenda in ecohydraulics and ecoacoustics has been established at the Chilworth Science Park facility by the International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research. Multiple projects funded by the Environment Agency, CEFAS, the Nuffield Foundation, the European Union, and industry have been conducted to develop and assess the effectiveness of mitigation technology for the environmental impact of water engineering, particularly focusing on fisheries. Several undergraduate and masters levels projects have been based at Chilworth, while the facilities have attracted leading scientists from around the world to collaborate with ICER (e.g. under the Leverhulme International Network initiative). The laboratories currently include an indoor and two outdoor experimental channels at Chilworth. The indoor facility is a large tilting flume, with the channel measuring 22-m in length (1.4-m wide and 0.6-m deep). It is equipped with three electrically driven centrifugal pumps providing a maximum flow capacity of 0.47 m3 s-1. It is believed to be the largest tilting flume in the UK. The flume is used for research and PGT activities. It is in use almost continuously throughout the year. Two outdoor flume channels (60m long, 0.6m deep, and 2.2 m wide) with sumps and pumping installations for flows of up to 1.2 m3 s-1 at both ends complement the indoor equipment. One channel has a trapezoidal concrete lined cross section, the second is earthen lined. Both internal and external flumes are used for undergraduate and MSc projects as well as research and enterprise activities. The flumes are amongst only a few in the UK that are capable of supporting controlled river environments and experiments at appreciable scale. This facilitates niche areas of research that cannot be realised in the standard flumes that nearly every university own. An egg incubation Unit is also sited at the Chilworth site, comprised of multiple units for assessing the effects of fine sediment and oxygen depleted water supply on the development of fish embryos. In addition to experimental infrastructure, ICER owns a vast array of equipment including that needed for fisheries surveys, electric fishing, and acoustic, radio, and PIT telemetry.

The University of Southampton has invested £120M in the first phase of its new Boldrewood Engineering Campus, which has seen the co-location of industry users (led by Lloyds Register) alongside core education, research and enterprise activities. This will enable users to become increasingly engaged in the co-creation and delivery of our educational and research programmes, and in the education, development and employment of our students at all levels. The Phase 1 development (completed in March 2014) encompasses transportation, UAV and rapid prototyping laboratories, a new Centre for Enterprise and Design, and a state-of-the-art experimental fluid dynamics facility (including a 140m towing tank, wind tunnels and flumes). Combined with our existing Acoustics, Ecohydraulics, Environmental, Geomechanics, Imaging, Infrastructure, Materials and Transport Systems laboratories, these will form the core experimental facilities available to the CDT in sustainable infrastructure systems. They are complemented by our computational facilities (notably the Iridis supercomputers, of which Iridis 4 is the most powerful academic supercomputer in England and in the top 15 in Europe, funded at a level of ~£1M pa by the University) and our pioneering expertise in the field monitoring of critical infrastructure. The use of our facilities and expertise in close collaboration with organisations of all sizes enables the rapid development of meaningful research partnerships with industry and government bodies. A team of dedicated technicians ensure that customers obtain the very best laboratory experience and support.

The International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research based within the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton, has a long track record of providing high quality specialist expertise in fish ecology and fisheries management for government agencies (e.g. EA, SEPA, NE, SNH etc.) and industry both in the UK and internationally.  Key areas of interest in ecological engineering include fish passage, screening, fish survey and monitoring, and habitat restoration. Our core ethos reflects the need to return to fundamental first principles to provide the information needed for application in an effort to understand factors that influence fish populations, and then develop technologies and methodology needed to mitigate for negative impacts. We host the UK’s largest ecohydraulics laboratory, with large scales flume facilities (e.g. for testing fish passage structures and screens) and extensive apparatus and equipment for field investigations, including accredited electric fishing, and PIT, Radio, Acoustic and combined telemetry techniques. As an academic institution we have considerable experience and expertise in delivering world leading accredited training and education, including in the area of fish ecology and fisheries management.

Evidence of a track record in each of the activities outlined can be provided as follows:

  1. Survey design: through the development and management of projects at many different levels (e.g. undergraduate, PhD, postdoctoral, consultancy etc.) the principles of survey design are well embedded within both our research and educational activities. We have designed many surveys for the customers, e.g. to assess the impact of tidal gates or quantification of barriers to fish migration.
  1. Monitoring of freshwater, transitional and coastal fisheries and associated habitats: The ICER team is well versed with principles of monitoring, including hydroacoustic (e.g. DIDSON) surveys, netting, electric fishing, habitat audits and others. Many studies, including investigating the influence of woody structure on fish populations; use of thermal refugia by brown trout in a southern English chalk stream (Southern Region), assessing impact of small scale hydropower devices (e.g. Archimedes turbines) on migratory fish (Anglian Region), have all required a baseline condition to be ascertained.
  1. Fish surveys: ICER staff regularly conduct fish surveys at multiple sites (riverine and coastal) using a variety of techniques and have a high level of competency in sampling techniques and species identification.
  1. Reporting interpreting data: Our skills in this element are of a high standard and quality as evidenced by the high impact publications in world leading scientific journals.  Many of these publications can be found here.
  1. Fish species verification and identification: ICER staff are highly and formally trained in a variety of techniques (e.g. accredited in electric fishing and home office procedures). There are formal quality assurance procedures and surveys are undertaken under strict health and safety and ethics approval through the University of Southampton procedures.
  1. Non-native species surveys and advice: ICER staff have experience with non-native species surveys and advice, both nationally (e.g. with respect to topmouth gudgeon and other species and associated media communication) and internationally (e.g. ICER Lion Fish project). ICER staff are experienced in education at UG and M level in non-native species ecology and management through the Environmental Science module in Environmental Pollution.
  1. Provision of expert advice and evidence related to fisheries management delivered through scientific research: Fundamental research that is then applied to fisheries management is the key remit and strength of our research grouping. We have worked closely with customers in projects that have included fundamental quantification of fish response to hydrodynamics and acoustics, response of eels to hydrodynamics and infrasound in the field ; response of eels and other fish species of river and tidal infrastructure; assessment of efficiency of different substrate material to improve passage of eels and lamprey at riverine structure. Training experience in this area is evidenced by multiple UG and M level Environmental Science and engineering modules including Freshwater Ecosystems and River and Fisheries Restoration.
  1. Provision of fish tagging and tracking techniques to include PIT tags, acoustics and mark recapture: the ICER team works under ASPA home office project and personal licences to use a range of telemetry and mark recapture techniques for multiple projects. For example, PIT telemetry has been used in assessments of influence of woody structure on fish populations in the New Forest and to quantify the impact of tide gates and beaver dams on movements of migratory fish; radio and acoustic telemetry has been used to assess the use of thermal refugia in southern English chalk streams and the impacts of small scale hydropower sites in the UK and Europe. We regularly also use the more traditional techniques including mark recapture and catch depletion etc.
  1. Selective fish biomanipulation: The fundamental principles of fish biomanipulation are taught by ICER staff, e.g. to reverse nutrient enrichment in shallow water lakes, as part of UG and M level modules, including Freshwater Ecosystems. We are able to provide advice on this subject, and conduct the surveys needed on which management decisions can be made.

The ICER team is well networked with national and internationally colleagues working in this field (e.g. multiple Higher education institutions and government laboratories including the Conte Anadromous fish passage laboratory, Massachusetts; NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Washington State; US Army Corp of Engineers Research Centre). This enables resources and expertise to be shared to the benefit of the customer in the search for optimal solutions and world leading advice.

How much does it cost?

The Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) is the methodology developed with the higher education sector to help them cost their activities. As is the case with all UK Universities, the University of Southampton has been subject to working under a Full Economic Costing (fEC) model since 2004. For further information on costings for specific projects please contact ICER directly.