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NCE100 | Costain

Nce100 ad costain technology montage v2 cropped

Costain helps to improve people’s lives by deploying technology-based engineering solutions to meet urgent national needs across the UK’s energy, water and transportation infrastructures. 

Costain offers a broad range of innovative services across the whole life-cycle of customers’ assets, through the delivery of integrated consultancy, asset optimisation, technology and complex delivery services. Customers today have increasingly complex requirements for future-proofed capacity, security of supply and efficiency in delivery which demand an ever greater emphasis on innovative engineering and technology-based solutions.  

At the forefront of technology-based engineering research, Costain has R&D relationships with 15 leading universities including Cambridge, Imperial College, Edinburgh and Manchester with whom it is progressing a number of patent applications, as well as sponsoring PhD students undertaking leading-edge research.  This investment in people and R&D is continually delivering exciting innovations including:

Analytics and predictive services: Costain’s technology is being used to manage critical infrastructure when experiencing extreme events such as the winter 2015 Dover storms and subsequent sea wall collapse

  • The deployment of workforce and workflow technology to the delivery of complicated maintenance
  • contracts. Through the use of this technology in East Sussex, Costain is improving the local customer experience, improving event management and improving efficiency of operations through automatic workforce management  
  • The use of algorithms in the capture and management of asset data to optimise maintenance and operations, achieving significant reductions in both capital expenditure and operational expenditure costs  
  • The design of a bespoke SharePoint system to provide a digital hub for the global partner companies to share large technical files and communicate effectively. This project has drawn on Costain’s expertise gained from similar projects such as its work with the National Grid and the UK Government  
  • Carbon management: Costain has developed a tool to quantify carbon and cost impacts across the whole life cycle of a project, recently successfully trialled on the Tideway East project. The tool can be integrated with planning platforms and it can be used to pick key areas to focus on rather than setting blanket targets for carbon reduction. The Construction Climate Challenge has recently awarded Costain funding to develop the tool to make it open source so it can be shared across the industry. This project is the step change needed for the industry to progress towards the aspirations of Construction 2025, PAS 2080 and the Infrastructure Carbon Review
  • A world leading contribution to the Dartford Free Flow Charging (DFFC) scheme, instigated by Highways England to remove the toll booths and reduce congestion at the Dartford Crossing.  Costain designed and implemented a bespoke traffic management system or “Safety Cell”, using a combination of leading-edge technologies including over-height detection, dangerous goods vehicle identification and vehicle profiling systems for non-compliant vehicle dimensions.

Shortlisted for the NCE100 Technology Trailblazer Award is Costain’s recently developed breakthrough in the key area of biodiversity and environmental risk and opportunity management based on geo-spatial indexing. Information can be fed in from sources such as Ordinance Survey, Natural England, and the Environment Agency on areas that are environmentally sensitive and need special attention during project planning. This system allows Costain’s environmental specialists to select a geo-fenced area and analyse it against biodiversity parameters. The ecological impact that works could have on an area can then be more accurately predicted, and the best way identified to minimise impacts on the environment and deliver a net positive gain in biodiversity. The work is pioneering and Costain is helping Reading University develop it as an engineering doctorate.

Already this work is having an influence on infrastructure projects from feasibility studies and concept design, to construction and restoration processes. Enabling biodiversity targets to be met, saving time and accelerating environmental impact assessments, Costain anticipates that the research from the project will contribute significantly towards better planning and management of large UK infrastructure projects. The next, equally game-changing step will be to provide this information in an interactive 3D model, which can be viewed on a virtual reality headset on site.

 In collaboration with New Civil Engineer last November, Costain launched its “Skills: Meeting Demand” report, investigating what the engineering industry needs to do ensure it has the skills to deliver the infrastructure projects of the future. Worryingly, it found that 20% of civil engineers are set to retire in the next 15 years. The report also looked at how the industry can recruit more people into engineering as well as how new types of skills, from across different sectors, can enter the industry to meet project needs today and in the future. And it made a number of suggestions as to how to plug the skills gap such as employing ex-military personnel, attracting more apprentices, and setting up skills academies.

 The report also shows that many people who may not have trained in civil engineering have exactly the right skills to work in the modern infrastructure sector.   

Costain has 200 graduates on its award-winning graduate development programme and 120 apprentices on a structured development programme undergoing training across the business.  Across the group, staff undertook over 50,000 hours of training and development in 2016 to create the right mix of skills needed to deliver customer requirements.


Key facts

NCE100 ranking: 18


  • Technology Trailblazer
  • Collaborative Firm of the Year




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