The application of computer power proved a significant development when, in 1969, mainframe computers were introduced which could be employed to process data collected from field surveys and models, and used to undertake small computations. The ability to process data facilitated the development of numerical models.
The Hydraulics Research Organisation also pioneered in sediment research. Scientists worked with a tilting flume leading to the development of the Ackers-White sediment transport formula in 1973. Researchers led the way with in-situ sediment analysis, using the Sand Flux Frame and the Owen Silt Settling Tube.
One of the company's longest running studies has been on the Thames Barrier. Following the East Coast Floods of 1953, often described as the worst national peacetime disaster to hit the UK, survey teams were sent to inspect the damage on the East Coast, and a small model of the Thames was used for a preliminary study of flood protection in London and on the estuary. The effect of a surge-reducing barrage was tested on behalf of the Waverley Committee, and this model became the forerunner of a larger model built to study the same problem years later. Starting in 1968, the Hydraulics Research Station was commissioned to undertake studies to predict how the construction and operation of a barrier at different sites would affect river levels, tidal currents and siltation in the Thames.
Many other computer, physical modelling, monitoring and laboratory studies were carried out to refine the barrier plan in the 1970s leading to the Thames Barrier becoming operational in 1984. Today, HR Wallingford is again supporting the largest infrastructure project on the tidal River Thames; the development of the Thames Tideway Tunnel (also known as the Supersewer), a major new sewer urgently needed to reduce the impacts of overflows from London’s sewers into the tidal River Thames. The company's scientists been helping the project team understand the effects the potential construction work and the completed project could have on the river’s hydrodynamic, sediment and morphological regimes, using a comprehensive programme of fluvial numerical and physical modelling and assessment.
1979 saw the introduction of the Short Crested Sea Basin - the first basin enabling a real sea to be modelled over a large area. This was a significant development in that it allowed the behaviour of offshore structures to be studied under realistic environmental conditions in the laboratory.
In 1982, came privatisation and the formation of the Hydraulics Research Station Limited, a company limited by guarantee, with the company changing its name to Hydraulics Research Limited (HRS) in the following year.
Then in 1991, the organisation changed its name to HR Wallingford Limited, and in 1993, the HR Wallingford Group Ltd was formed, a group of wholly owned and joint venture companies. In 2007, HR Wallingford acquired Dredging Research Ltd.
More recently, the opening of HR Wallingford's new marine modelling facilities, the UK Ship Simulation Centre and the Fast Flow Facility, took place in 2014. In February 2017, improved ship simulation facilities for Western Australia and the wider region were provided with the opening of the Australia Ship Simulation Centre in Perth.
In 2019, we acquired the Marine Hydrodynamics division of Manchester-based Cussons Technology. Combining Cussons’ expertise in force measurement with HR Wallingford’s expertise in wave generation and measurement brings a comprehensive range of instruments and technology together for the benefit of the coastal and marine research community.
In 2020, we expanded our Australia Ship Simulation Centre in Perth, making it one of the largest ship simulation centres in Australia,