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Discovering potential opportunities for the National Underground Asset Register

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The Geospatial Commission has launched a new discovery project to determine if and how additional benefits could be delivered by increasing access to the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) data. 

NUAR is an emerging digital map of underground pipes and cables that is revolutionising the way we install, maintain, operate and repair our buried infrastructure. Initially NUAR is being made available to underground asset owners and their supply chain to support the ‘safe dig’ use case.

This exciting new discovery project, part funded by the Government Office for Technology Transfer, will explore the potential benefits of widening access to NUAR and the constraints surrounding new propositions. We believe potential opportunities include making NUAR:  

  • available to other user groups for safe digging purposes, such as landowners and developers 
  • available to support other use cases (e.g. electric vehicle charge point rollout, flood risk planning, emergency response, conveyancing, property development, etc.)  
  • accessible via third party intermediaries / APIs (application programming interfaces), rather than solely via the NUAR user interface  

However, these opportunities do not come without constraints and risks. Our discovery work aims to assess both the feasibility and value of such opportunities, with only the ideas that prove to be truly feasible and have the support of our asset owner community and national security stakeholders taken forward in future years.  

The need for further discovery work 

Since the inception of NUAR, we have regularly been contacted by individuals and organisations interested in accessing NUAR data for purposes beyond the ‘safe dig’ use case currently permitted. In a public consultation we held in 2022, 75% of respondents stated that they were supportive of expanding the prescribed use cases for NUAR beyond ‘safe digging’. 

Many respondents suggested specific additional use cases, which could help maximise the value and benefit of the data held within NUAR. We have also been contacted by several data service providers, asking how they can support asset owners in ensuring NUAR data is used in as many excavations as possible. 

To date we have intentionally focused our efforts on delivering the critical safe dig use case. However, with the minimum viable product (MVP) now available across the whole of England and Wales, and work progressing on updating existing legislation, we believe that now is the right time to explore potential opportunities from widening secure and controlled access to NUAR.

The discovery process 

Over the next year we will be carrying out discovery work, collaborating with individuals and organisations who are interested in emerging opportunities, to test the feasibility and value of different propositions. 

Starting in spring 2024 we will be running a series of half day in-person workshops, to explore potential future uses in more detail. As themes emerge, we will reach out directly to potential participants with further details.

The evidence collected will inform our thinking on whether to extend access to National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) data, based on an improved understanding of the potential outcomes, benefits and uncertainties. This supports the Geospatial Commission’s mission to ‘drive greater use of geospatial applications and insights across the economy’. 

You will be able to stay up-to-date on how the discovery project is progressing by reading project updates as and when they are published. 

Get involved - Updated June 2024

Following an extensive of stakeholder engagement, we are now in the process of analysing all the ideas captured. As a result, while the Geospatial Commission will continue to work closely with stakeholders and will always welcome feedback on the NUAR programme as a whole, we will not be incorporating new ideas into the discovery project at this stage.

Please look out for future updates on our GOV.UK webpage, for the latest news on this work as it progresses.

You can also sign up to get an email notification every time we publish a new blog post. For more information about this and other news see our website, or follow us on LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter).

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  1. Comment by Meryl Dodd posted on

    An excellent initiative - and one for which there is a burning need.