Implications of future technological trends on Scotland's infrastructure: independent report

Overview of the range of technology trends potentially impacting on infrastructure in Scotland and examples of their uses and implications.


This report was prepared by Frost and Sullivan Limited, on behalf of the Scottish Government. It is intended as a submission to the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland, as well as a discussion document for the Scottish Government. It does not necessarily represent the views of Scottish Government Ministers.

The intention of the report is to illuminate the implications for Scotland’s infrastructure of technological change and innovation. This is one of the key strategic drivers for the infrastructure vision identified by the Commission. The timeframe applied in the analysis is of 5 years and 30 years, to inform the Scottish Government’s Infrastructure Investment Plan for the next five years and the longer term 30-year strategy for infrastructure on which the Commission is advising.


The approach included:

  • Identifying a set of key technology trends of potential importance to Scotland in the mid-term future (using the findings of previous research undertaken by Frost and Sullivan), and from this, identifying those most relevant to each infrastructure ‘portfolio’ or area
  • For each area and trend, identifying the likely timescale for impact (5 or 30 years) and the level of certainty over the impact, and identifying illustrative examples of how the trend is playing out or may do so in the future
  • Drawing out the implications of these findings for future infrastructure investment in each area

Scope and limitations

The report provides an overview of the range of technology trends potentially impacting on infrastructure in Scotland and provides examples of their uses and implications. It focuses primarily on the potential for deployment of technologies in infrastructure design and delivery. While it draws attention to technologies that may drive wider behavioural changes it does not attempt to estimate the potential direct and indirect impacts of these changes on infrastructure demand (e.g. such as changes in work practices or the way we access services resulting in a reduction in demand for transport infrastructure and services).

The report is designed to provide a stimulus for future-focused thinking on Scotland’s infrastructure vision and strategy. It does not provide an economic assessment of the impacts of any particular technology deployments in Scotland.


  • Judgements about the timeframe and certainty of impact are qualitative and have been assessed using available secondary sources.
  • The assessment of uncertainty is based on a judgement about how unstable or unpredictable the trend is. This includes consideration of both the impact of the trend on infrastructure as well as the development of the technology itself.
  • When considering the timing of impact, this was defined as impact that is significant in terms of large scale commercial deployment. This means that even though there may be some active pilot deployments in some areas currently (e.g. carbon capture or hydrogen), large scale commercial deployment may still be judged to be some way off.
  • The assessment of timing and certainty for each technology is estimated separately for each area of infrastructure and may vary accordingly. For example, drones could see different rates of commercial adoption in transport (for last-mile- delivery) than in energy (for inspection applications). Further, among each technology category there may be sub-categories with different rates of adoption. For instance, within advanced materials, hydrophobic coatings are ready for wide deployment, whilst self-healing materials that could be applied to concrete are still under development and require a longer timeframe to be adopted at commercial scale.
  • Definitions for each technology trend are supplied in the appendix.



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