Insights

Friday, 8th December 2017

Temple welcomes the publication of Government plan to improve delivery and performance of infrastructure

In “Transforming Infrastructure Performance” (TIP), the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) sets out the Government’s proposals to improve the effectiveness of investment in infrastructure. It forms part of its plan to implement the Industrial Strategy. TIP focusses on three challenges, i.e.:

  • Prioritising investment in the right projects;
  • Improving productivity in delivery; and
  • Maximising the overall benefits of infrastructure investment.

TIP sets immediate priorities as:

Defining cost and performance benchmarks: Providing more consistency in business cases across major infrastructure projects will certainly improve investment decisions, and help to focus on those projects likely to provide the most benefit. Better international collaboration will also help us understand why there are such apparent differences in the costs and benefits of infrastructure investment between countries, and provide pointers for improved performance.

A framework for cross-sector integration: Better integration between different investment programmes will make delivering benefits easier, and allow them to be demonstrated more clearly to a wider audience of stakeholders. This will significantly help in overcoming the opposition that many infrastructure projects face by making the benefits more tangible at a local level.

Roll out of the Procuring for Growth Balanced Scorecard: More efficient procurement that delivers more effective outcomes will be a very welcome move. The cost of bidding for contracts to develop and deliver infrastructure is often disproportionately expensive, especially for SMEs. The process is often also unnecessarily complex and frequently overruns programme.  Improving and cutting the costs of procurement will also flow through into lower costs for delivery, and better cost to benefit ratios consequently.

Putting government projects at the forefront of construction innovation: Big projects certainly provide great opportunities to innovate. However, these are opportunities too often missed unfortunately. Applying innovation early in the planning and design process is essential to improve this. The tendency of procurement processes to favour tried and tested approaches also needs to be tackled. Care needs to be taken in applying innovation also, for example,  the presumption in favour of offsite construction highlighted may not be always be the best and most sustainable solution when the costs and environmental effects of transport are taken into account.

Support delivery of the Construction Sector Deal: Innovation, skills and procuring for value are vital to modernizing construction. Removing barriers to entry into the sector for individuals and SMEs will be key to this. Moving faster on this front will also be essential to facing the challenges to the sector posed by Brexit.

Use digital technology and innovation to improve whole life value from infrastructure: A better understanding of the ways that this can be delivered, and embedding it into design and procurement at the earliest stage will be key to this. We need to move from using technology as a fancy way of doing what’s always been done towards genuine innovation as quickly as possible

IPA’s core role to support and assure projects: Better support for promotors of projects and delivery organisations will go a long way to improving the efficiency and performance of projects. It will also be important for the private sector to work with these bodies to promote innovation and provide a better focus for delivery and ongoing improved performance to make good on delivering the promised benefits of projects.

Overall, the Government’s plan is to be welcomed, and will provide the basis for a broader range of private sector companies to engage in improving productively and help contribute to the growth of the UK economy more effectively.

Article by Chris Ferrary, Director.