Adopt digital thinking to spark infrastructure “golden age”, says new ICE president

Tim Broyd speaking at his inauguration as the new ICE president.

A new golden age of infrastructure, delivering economic growth and better quality of life, is within grasp if engineers embrace new technology and the mind-set to exploit it, said new ICE president Tim Broyd at his inaugural address on 1 November.

Speaking in front of over 200 guests from the world of engineering, Broyd, Professor of Built Environment Foresight at University College London, set out a vision of an industry that delivered and operated roads, railways and energy and water systems as efficiently and responsively as Uber, Amazon or Google.

Broyd is committed to using his year as ICE president to drive this transformation, including delivery of a major study to be published in April 2017 that will set out a road map for achieving this change.  While stressing the opportunities, Broyd also warned that companies – and individuals – who did not embrace this agenda were in danger of being left with outmoded skills and business models.

Speaking after his address, he said: “To date we have largely used technologies such as Building Information Modelling to improve the delivery of projects by helping all parties to collaborate more effectively.  And this has delivered real cost savings – up to 20% according to recent government figures.  

“Looking forward the real prize will be to embed technology into our assets and networks so that operators can manage them in real time – and the public can take greater control of how they use the services underpinned by infrastructure.  In plain English, we will make trains run faster, more frequently and more reliably, we will keep the lights on and help people manage down their energy bills.”

Broyd has wide experience of working to unlock the benefits that technology can bring to the construction industry.  During his career in industry, he collaborated with many innovative tech firms, while R&D director of engineering consultant Atkins, including with GroupBC. Its chief executive, Sangeev Shah explained the impact this had.

“GroupBC knew that technology would transform the way businesses collaborated across the world and Tim knew exactly what impact this could make to the construction industry,” said Shah. “Inspired by the conversations with Tim, GroupBC made a bold decision to focus its efforts in the construction industry and the construction industry alone. As far as technology was concerned, the industry was in the dark ages and together we were confident we could drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. So, not only has he had an impact on the 20,000+ companies that use the GroupBC products today, but a major impact on all others that use competing systems.” 

Broyd has been Professor of Built Environment Foresight and Hon Professor of Civil Engineering at UCL since 2012. His career in industry includes substantial experience as corporate director of technology, innovation and sustainability for engineering design consultancies Atkins and Halcrow.  

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