Looking to a New Year it is clear that there remains a huge demand for better infrastructure across the developed and developing world.
In 2013 McKinsey Group identified a need for $57 trillion (£38M) worth of investment up to 2030. Behind this headline is the startling fact that this huge sum is needed just to keep up with global economic growth. McKinsey’s calculations did not include the costs of tackling climate change (even before the Paris agreement), supporting the development goals of emerging countries and a host of other challenges to which infrastructure is part of the solution.
In a world still recovering from the financial crisis and often beset by skills shortages, the profession will not be able to meet these needs without big changes.
The first step will be to accelerate the take up of the best tools and practices from around the world. A YouTube clip of Broad Group of China’s construction of a 30 storey tower block in 15 days has been viewed over 2M times. But how often have the ideas behind this achievement been put into practice? In the UK we’ve had successive reports on industry performance; Latham, Egan, Infrastructure UK. How many of the findings have been acted on systematically?
Secondly, we need to understand and ride the next wave of change. Across the world, companies with the ability to manage big data, harness computing power and embrace the internet of things are transforming the economy. Infrastructure won’t be immune. Within a generation, networks will look radically different and their owners will make radically different demands on the industry. We could see this as a threat. Manufacturers and big tech giants will almost certainly be more prominent in our sector.
The demand for wholly new infrastructure may decline as asset management becomes more sophisticated. Or we could see it as an opportunity to find new partners and new ways to meet needs.
What does this mean for the ICE? Our Industry Transformation programme is already packaging and sharing knowledge from around the world; on asset management, collaborative working, building information modelling (BIM), design for manufacture and many other ideas and techniques.
Throughout 2016 we’ll be expanding it and challenging members to explore with us the big forces transforming our sector. In the UK we’ll also be looking to shape public debate on the future by producing a major assessment of the nation’s long term infrastructure needs and how they can most effectively be met.
This study will feed directly into the British Government’s new National Infrastructure Commission, the brainchild of President Sir John Armitt.
Your Council also has ambitious plans to make the ICE the first choice for the range of professionals who work alongside civil engineers. As the infrastructure world becomes ever more interdisciplinary, we and they can only benefit from sharing knowledge and experience.
Later this year, Members will be balloted on the creation of a new Associate membership grade that can provide a home for these colleagues.
Council also believes that we won’t deliver change if we continue to exclude swathes of the talent pool available to us. Over the last year New Civil Engineer has rightly championed the need for a more diverse and inclusive industry. The ICE should and will play an active role in driving this vital change.