In 1987 the European Commission started a Large Installation Programme (LIP) in which European Researchers could perform experimental research in large, costly and/or rare installations in countries other than their own. Hydraulic laboratory installations were among the first installations supported in this programme, firstly the installations of only one laboratory (Delft Hydraulics in the Netherlands), but the support soon expanded to 4 institutes (in Framework Programme 3) and 10 in FP4.
Of course, this called for some exchange and coordination, reason why in 1997 a concerted action started called HYDRALAB. In FP4 HYDRALAB-I (1997 – 2000) was designed to facilitate access of European researchers to large and uncommon facilities in its related fields. But that was only one of its tasks. Another was to take over from the EC the burden of coordinating the yearly Round Table Conferences in which facility providers with access contracts would report on their availability.
HYDRALAB adopted as mission statement
'to clarify the integrated role of experimental research, including field tests and mathematical modelling in hydraulic engineering, geophysical fluid dynamics and ice engineering in terms of European society needs'
HYDRALAB-II (2000 – 2004) was the successor of HYDRALAB-I.
The HYDRALAB-II consortium initiated a fundamental discussion on the position of laboratory experiments in the hydraulic research methodology, leading to new goals to improve the use of experimental facilities.
This was laid down in a strategy paper (click here for full paper) in which the consortium sets out the strategy for the future of large-scale experimental facilities in the general field of hydraulics.
It concluded that there is a compelling need for balance in the hydraulic research methodology. Even more, there is a need for synergy between the various research tools available: Physical Models (PM), Numerical Models (NM), Theoretical Analysis (TA) and Field Experiments (FE).
The topics of hydraulic research have become so complicated, that only an integrated approach using all means of research available can give us hope for progress. On top of that we cannot stick to only deterministic approaches: uncertainty analysis should be incorporated in our research approach too.
Correspondingly there is a need for sophisticated measuring techniques giving synoptic measuring results in two or three dimensions (e.g. Correlation Imaging Velocimetry (CIV), and 3D Particle Tracking Velocimetry (PTV)). These techniques have to be developed and/or improved using laboratory facilities.
Integration of numerical modelling systems, field measurements, experimental laboratory research in special-purpose facilities and theoretical analyses, combined via “calculation or integration modules”, will lead to what is variously called “hybrid modelling” or “composite modelling”: field data, complemented with laboratory experiments, provide boundary conditions, calibration and verification material, far field is modelled numerically, near field and/or processes are modelled physically, and results are tied together computationally.
Experience from EC-funded Access contracts showed that it takes time to bring well-educated and trained researchers from all over Europe to the “world class” top level of research as found in only a few institutions across Europe. This task requires greater exchange of researchers and a double function of Access projects: (a) top quality research for selected projects where facilities in specific countries are missing, and (b) training and education of young researchers during these projects alongside experienced seniors.
Thus for HYDRALAB-III we faced the challenge to achieve authentic two-way cooperation between experimental research, both in the field and in scale models or special purpose facilities, and numerical modelling. In other words
“to migrate from competition between research tools to synergy”
Such an ambitious approach means that no single facility can perform all the necessary work. Significant progress is only feasible through the cooperation of as many similar facilities and research groups as possible.
This strategy is being implemented in HYDRALAB-III, an Integrated Infrastructure Initiative (I3) within FP6 (2006 – 2010). An I3 comprises the integrated execution of networking activities, transnational access to various research infrastructures and joint research activities. Thus an I3 is the ideal instrument to implement the HYDRALAB strategy.
In a four-year period, from April 2006 until March 2010, HYDRALAB-III will organise 22 different meetings (workshops, young researchers training meetings, stakeholder meetings and participant meetings), during 7 so called “HYDRALAB events”.
HYDRALAB-III will produce over 75 “deliverables”. It is also envisaged that in this period over 100 publications will be published or submitted for publication. At mid term the HYDRALAB-III website (www.hydralab.eu) already shows some 130 project documents, including 33 deliverables.