KHRI is now a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in the Road Sector in Kerala!!! The mission of CoE is to undertake projects and provide services involving Innovation, Problem-Solving, Training, and Research & Development.Road transport plays a significant role in the economic development of a country/ region. Specifically, in Kerala, Road Transport has a vital role, given its geography and scattered habitation.Kerala has a road network of around 3.31 lakh km. PWD roads constitute 9.6% of the total road network and carry 80% of the total road traffic. While the road network in Kerala is extensive, the quality and alignment of the roads have constrained its development. Moreover, the road traffic, growing at an alarming rate of 10% to 11% every year, puts pressure on the network. There is thus a need for a think-tank/advisory body to deal with these challenges comprehensively. It led to conceiving an idea to develop and implement a Centre of Excellence for the Road Sector in the state. Subsequently, due to having immense potential in various domains of Civil Engineering, KHRI was chosen as the most worthy for being upgraded to the status of a CoE.

To help guide the CoE in its preliminary stage, the government set up a Task Force, the highest decision-making body of CoE. Under the chairmanship of the Secretary, PWD, the CoE has members representing various realms of Civil Engineering like academicians, technical experts from PWD, project management experts etc. The Joint Director and his outstanding CoE Team are racing against the clock to achieve the set goals by converting directions of the Task Force into actions.


Role of CoE

The role of the CoE is of an overarching facilitator for reform initiatives in the infrastructure sector, which would support the PWD to address five major thematic areas: 

  • Innovation in Design and Construction practices
  • Quality Assurance and Contract Management
  • Road Asset Management
  • Road Safety
  • Promoting Indigenous R&D and Standardisation



A thorough study of these thematic areas has helped in identifying particular gaps and challenges concerning each thematic area. The role of the CoE is thus to address these gaps and challenges segmented into four major dimensions - Innovation, Problem-Solving, Training, and R&D.


Defining a Centre of Excellence (CoE)


KHRI is a Centre of excellence with a four-quadrant framework shown below. 




Concept and Framework of CoE

The above framework captures the distinct types of centres and defines a CoE with the help of two axes- a horizontal axis and a vertical axis. The horizontal axis represents the 'present' and the 'future' period. The vertical axis represents the nature of the problem and the type of knowledge required to resolve it. The vertical axis pointing up represents an undefined problem that requires tacit (implicit) knowledge to rectify. The vertical axis pointing down represents a defined problem that requires explicit knowledge to address it. Each quadrant of the framework presents a different type of centre, as discussed below: 

  1. KHRI as a Centre of Training: This centre provides training on aspects concerning the daily routine. The role of the Centre of Training is to improve the competence of the population it serves. It would then ideally grow to better the competence of all the individuals operating in the sector. The 'Vision Document' published by KHRI covers the above aspects and gives a detailed description of the training curriculum. It includes the types of training programmes offered, their duration and so on. As a Centre of Training, KHRI regularly conducts training programmes for all the stakeholders. However, during daily functioning, challenges beyond the scope of this centre may surface. The Centre of Expertise (discussed in B below) takes care of these problems.
  2. KHRI as a Centre of Expertise: This centre solves any issues it comes across in the routine day to day functioning of a Centre of Competence. The Centre of Expertise thus solves existing problems that are undefined/ complex through experience and expertise. For instance, KHRI as a Centre of Expertise helps the Government of Kerala (GoK) find solutions to issues like improving stability and deflection characteristics of bridges. The experience required is drawn from experts from the line department (e.g. PWD) and associated departments (e.g. Local Self Government Department), while the sector experts offer their expertise. In addition, KHRI has CoE chairs at prestigious institutions across India for availing of technical support. Furthermore, several empanelled designers and contractors well versed in the relevant fields help in finding solutions.
  3. KHRI as a Centre of R&D: During problem-solving in the Centre of Expertise, situations that demand research in a specific sub-area may arise. In such cases, even if the problem is defined, its solution may still be unknown, thereby requiring further research. This centre thus absorbs implied/ tacit knowledge from the field- in most cases from a CoE/ Centre of Expertise- and conducts Research and Development (R&D) on the given subject to arrive at a solution. KHRI has effective and efficient research and development system to take on challenging projects related to infrastructure development. As a centre of R&D, KHRI performs pilot projects to validate the lab results before executing the project on a large scale.  KHRI is actively establishing partnerships with R&D organisations (e.g. IIT's) in the form of CoE Chairs and is obtaining membership from renowned organisations. This step can aid KHRI in its research activities as a centre of R&D. 
  4. KHRI as a Centre of Innovation: The primary objective of this centre is to solve future sectoral problems that are undefined/ complex by drawing on tacit knowledge developed over many years; the centre would bring in the outside-in perspective. It is a perspective that is futuristic but still is grounded in the present context. Another aspect of these centres is that they typically function in converging area . As per the task force recommendations, a separate technical wing called the Innovative Design Unit (IDU) took form in KHRI, with domain experts proficient in executing innovative technologies and design in the department. This unit specialises in implementing the latest designs with the support of experts from industry and academic institutions like IITs, focusing on rapid construction techniques like steel structures, pre-engineered and prefabricated structures. It will also implement context-sensitive designs with the aid of Building Information Modelling and Bridge Information Modelling techniques. Furthermore, the IDU will be instrumental in conducting knowledge transfer sessions for the capacity building of the in-house design team of PWD. To encapsulate, this step taken by KHRI to introduce the Innovative Design Unit is undoubtedly a significant leap to KHRI as a centre of innovation, with all its future innovative designs masterminded and accomplished through this unit. 

KHRI as a  Centre of Excellence

A centre of excellence executes functions across all four quadrants but at different maturity levels. Likewise, KHRI, as a Centre of Excellence, carries out its various tasks by taking on the role of a Centre of Training, Centre of Expertise, Centre of R&D and Centre of Innovation. It thus functions as a point of convergence, absorbing the best practices across the globe (through research papers, journals, international workshops, seminars etc.), contextualising this knowledge for the local requirement and disseminating relevant information to all the beneficiaries. Thus, the CoE, in essence, facilitates professional standards development, certification and training, consultancy, certification, research and professional development of all stakeholders in the given sector. 

In short, KHRI, a Centre of Excellence in PWD, is to:

  • Function as an advisory body/ think tank for transforming the road sector in Kerala by prioritising the thrust areas and providing thought leadership, strategic advice, and problem-solving inputs. 
  • Act as a knowledge-sharing platform leading to capacity building of the sector.
  • Assist the GoK/ PWD to bring in and implement best-in-class practices in Kerala's road sector in the next five years. It seeks to carry out the same either in-house or through a network of expert partners.
  • Sensitise the workforce towards the ultimate goal of quality, safe and aesthetically appealing construction through rigorous training programmes.


Recent activities and achievements of CoE

The CoE team has been pushing itself to the limits since the beginning of its formation. It has also been successful in all its endeavours. Below are some of the achievements of CoE:

  • Established Innovative Design Unit (IDU)
  • Signed an agreement for the association with IIT Palakkad to establish a Chair, titled 'KHRI CoE Chair @ IIT Palakkad'
  • Membership secured from the renowned organisations mentioned below:
  • Indian Chapter of American Concrete Institute
  • The Institution of Engineers (IEI) 
  • Indian Geotechnical Society 
  • Set up a Digital Library 
  • Obtained NABL accreditation for KHRI laboratories 
  • Prepared and released the Vision Document for the constitution of a Training Institute, along with guidelines for training of PWD Engineers.
  • Procured new sophisticated equipment for testing as follows
  • Corrosion rate meter  
  • Core grinding machine 
  • Pull out test system