Earlier this month a parliamentary committee criticised the UK government for the incoherence of its plans to improve Britain’s productivity.
The committee did however welcome the creation of the new National Infrastructure Commission.
This is a sound conclusion.
Improved connectivity between cities, faster broadband and better access to international markets are just three of the drivers of future growth that must be underpinned by better infrastructure.
The ICE is working closely with the commission and in the autumn will provide it with a National Needs Assessment (NNA).
The NNA will set out the key planks of strategy to meet the UK’s needs over the long term. In January, ICE President Sir John Armitt presented a similar ICE assessment to the Hong Kong government.
The thirst for this kind of analysis is welcome. Infrastructure is expensive and one way or the other the public pays. To retain support, it will be vital to articulate in plain English what assets are needed and what benefits they will bring.
The industry then needs to focus on cost effective delivery of these benefits. Over the coming months, the ICE will take this agenda forward with its Procurement and Supply Chain campaign. The campaign showcases best practice from across the industry and in particular the work of the Infrastructure Client Group (ICG).
The ICG was formed in 2011 after studies showed that Britain is one of the most expensive places in the world in which to deliver infrastructure. Facilitated by the ICE it brings together most of the big players in UK infrastructure to do something about it.
On a new portal at www.ice.org.uk you can find the group’s new Alliancing Code of Practice.
The code and a bank of supporting case studies show how clients including London Underground, Network Rail, UK Power Networks and Anglian Water have drawn innovation up through the supply chain, delivering improved services while reducing costs and speeding up delivery.
Of course no procurement model is suitable for all circumstances.
But the ICG’s work does show that alliancing has a lot to offer in sectors characterised by complex, changing environments and where securing a high and reliable level
of service is paramount.
These sectors – transport, utilities – are of course also the sectors that are central to driving economic growth.
The campaign will also look forward. We want to identify and facilitate the next big step change. What will this be? There will certainly need to be commercial and legal innovations. Wafer thin margins and the stifling impact of insurance are well understood barriers to change.
The ICG’s case studies however show that behaviour and leadership is a rich seam to be mined.
Network Rail’s contribution observes: “The real challenge facing an alliance relates to human behaviour. It is people, their mindset, behaviour, feelings, beliefs and assumptions that present the real challenge to the alliance achieving a high level of performance.”
So the question is how do we take these insights further.
If we are aiming for a high level of service over a long period of time, how do we make sure all parties have a stake in that outcome? If we are looking to drive the right behaviours, how do we ensure that penetrates all levels of the supply chain?
We hope you will join with us in finding the answers.