Infrastructure must bridge tech gap to deliver better

Infrastructure urged to mind the technological gap in new systems approach, says ICE report.

Infrastructure needs to catch up with more technologically advanced sectors and capitalise on its increased role in the UK’s short and long-term plans, according to a new Institution of Civil Engineers report.

Following the government’s announcement of a National Infrastructure Strategy and against a backdrop of costly, high-profile infrastructure failures, A Systems Approach to Infrastructure Delivery (SAID) provides guiding principles and other recommendations regarding the leadership, culture and organisation of infrastructure projects.

Among them is a call for infrastructure to close the gap with sectors that have adapted better to growing complexity and technological change, including oil, gas and aerospace. The report recommends cherry-picking best practices in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

With infrastructure at the heart of the UK’s proposed economic recovery plan from Covid-19, and central to the target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the report also calls on owners to clearly define a project’s outcomes and provide direction across the board. This ranges from functional needs for the operational system to data requirements and gauging appetite for technological and innovation risk.

Andrew McNaughton, former SYSTRA group chief operating officer and SAID steering group chair, said: “Huge generational challenges, such as Covid-19 and the UK’s commitment to a net-zero carbon economy, are adding further layers of complexity to what we as civil engineers do. Technology, in areas such as communications, transportation and power generation, distribution and storage, is also evolving at a pace that is forcing change in the design, integration and commissioning of infrastructure systems. The industry has fallen behind, and it has the responsibility now to catch up and provide the infrastructure that the public deserve.”

The report’s steering group features representatives from BAE Systems, the Environment Agency and Heathrow Airport and makes wider recommendations to government and industry bodies. These include the development of a construction readiness standard, a post-professional qualification career development pathway for leaders of complex projects and a common approach to data management.

Click here to download A Systems Approach to Infrastructure Delivery.

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