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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Investigating the infrastructure enabling environment to strengthen project development

Globally, the current stock of infrastructure is not sufficient to meet the rising demand for infrastructure services. Billions lack access to essential services that infrastructure provides, especially in developing countries.  Infrastructure development is an inherently complex endeavour.  Many critical decisions are made in the preparation stage, when the project is farthest from completion, when significant capital investment is required and when information nis scarce. The preparation stage is arguably the most challenging, but also has the most potential for impact. Governments’ ability to prepare quality infrastructure projects that meet societal need hinges on the strength of their enabling environments: the actors, resources and conditions that facilitate the planning, preparation, delivery and management of sustainable, resilient and quality infrastructure projects. The infrastructure enabling environment is a broad and complex term without a standard definition. Developing country governments are often burdened by weak enabling environments, and it is not clear how the enabling environment can be strengthened to improve infrastructure development. The complexity of infrastructure development and the enabling environment necessitates a systems perspective. This research thus aims to conduct a systems analysis to map the infrastructure enabling environment, identify relationships and causal loops within this system, and identify leverage points to improve project development. A holistic definition and comprehensive framework–the INABLE Framework for the Infrastructure Enabling Environment–are developed to conceptualize the enabling environment and its key components. The INABLE framework is applied to a systems analysis to investigate the enabling environment. The systems stakeholder map highlights the central role of government institutions in project development, the need for trust between stakeholders, and the role of power dynamics in these stakeholder relationships. Similarly, the causal loop analysis uncovers the limits to debt financing, the potential of quick-win projects and success stories to drive investor confidence, the trade-offs between affordability and bankability, and the power of data and information to drive decision-making. Through case study applications in Ghana and Saint Lucia, the theoretical INABLE framework and systems analysis are grounded in practical examples demonstrating real-life enabling environments. The case studies highlight the role of legislation and institutional structures as leverage points, and the impact of external technical assistance from development financiers and civil society in supporting the enabling environment. Overall, this novel research approach consolidates existing literature on the infrastructure enabling environment to provide novel insights and practical recommendations through the INABLE Framework, systems and analysis and case study applications.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.