Features - Business

Collaboration is key

Now in its third year, the UK Infrastructure Show 2019 hosted more than 1,400 delegates on 30th April at the NEC, Birmingham.

The show was a fantastic success, reflective of the infrastructure sector itself which currently boasts a pipeline of some £600Bn in investment over the next decade. Read our show review here.

This year, the event combined with the UK Public Sector Expo and Procurex National, with UKIS2019 seeing delegates enjoying over 30 free training sessions, five speakers in the Keynote Arena, six Public Sector Solutions Live speakers, four Networking & Collaboration Zones, a Product Showcase Exhibition and the wealth of knowledge demonstrated in the four skills development zones throughout the event.

The Keynote arena was a highlight of the show, seeing speakers from infrastructure’s elite talk to a packed house, with standing room only for most of the day.

Hosted by Stephen Kinnell of supply chain specialists, CompeteFor, the arena heard some powerful comments and commitments.

Collaboration and innovation were the key themes coming from the UK Infrastructure Show Keynote Arena

Phil Graham

First up, Phil Graham Chief Executive of the National Infrastructure Commission, addressed the audience. He discussed how important infrastructure is to the country, as a key driver of the economy and improver of change. But, he said, it is crucial that government not only lives up to its commitments, but that any plans and projects must adopt a joined up approach to deliver real benefits for the communities it serves.

“It is scandalous,” he said, “that the coordinated investment strategy which has been so successful in London is not being replicated in the Midlands and elsewhere. All the more so as the role of cities in our economy grows ever more important, and the drive to rebalance the economy away from London and the south east continues.”

Mr Graham continued, explaining the Commission’s priorities and key initiatives. One area he highlighted was not only the lack of joined up thinking, but the need for long-term commitments stopping the cycle of ‘short-termism’ and providing the long-term funding that gives projects, contractors and the communities they are due to serve, stability.

He said we need to come away from a fragmented and piecemeal approach and really look to delivering the services we need as a country and invest in strategic funding.

Collaboration emerged as the key theme for the show, with all speakers urging a joined up approach to infrastructure; ensuring that everyone’s needs are met, across the country, leaving no one behind. A number of speakers believed that devolution was the key to ensuring this and long-term funding commitments are required to ensure infrastructure sector can pave the way to a brighter and stable future.

Collaboration and innovation were the key themes coming from the UK Infrastructure Show Keynote Arena

Matthew Vickerstaff

The Keynote Arena further hosted Matthew Vickerstaff, Interim Chief Executive of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, who discussed how delivery of the pipeline will be achieved. Looking at strategic investment, infrastructure priorities, and the challenges in improving infrastructure performance.

With some 50% of UK infrastructure delivered privately, Mr Vickerstaff discussed the challenges of providing certainty, with PFI contracts at an end, he looked to how the private sector and government can support each other in achieving the sector’s ambitions. He announced a review of infrastructure finance and encouraged the infrastructure community to make their voice heard.

An informative session from Mark Howard, HS2 Chief Engineer, followed. As Europe’s biggest infrastructure project currently underway, HS2 is a flagship for the infrastructure sector. Mr Howard told the packed room, that up to this point, the amount of track already built equals half the length of the UK – giving us some idea of the huge undertaking this project is.

Collaboration and innovation were the key themes coming from the UK Infrastructure Show Keynote Arena

Mark Howard

He said HS2 was crucial in balancing the UK economy away from London and towards the Midlands and North. Once again, the theme of collaboration and a joined up approach was key, and the support of organisations such as the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse was crucial to successful delivery.

Ambitions for the project include having 60% of contracts awarded to SMEs, opening up that supply chain and ensuring that the whole of the UK benefits from the project.

The next session was held by Catherine de Marco, Deputy Director Infrastructure, Skills and Efficiency at Department for Transport. She began her address with a quote from 307 BC, when King Wu-ling of Zhao in north-eastern China, said: “A talent for following the ways of yesterday, is not sufficient to improve the world of today.”

The world is changing rapidly, she said, and we need seize the opportunities new technologies and systems can provide us with, or be left behind. Ms de Marco focused on the issues of skilled labour and the requirement for new, technology-minded individuals to be enticed into the construction, transport and infrastructure sectors.

Collaboration and innovation were the key themes coming from the UK Infrastructure Show Keynote Arena

Catherine de Marco

Once again, collaboration was a key theme. Addressing the skills crisis and ensuring commitments can be met, needs to be joint-undertaking with both the public and private sector playing important roles, she said.

The skills strategy developed by the DfT is a mature programme, running in its third year, and is gaining momentum. Miss de Marco revealed that rail and road apprenticeships are bucking the trend and we are seeing real achievements with a 22% increase in roads and rail apprentices this year, where the figures are still dropping in other sectors.

She called on the private sector to continue working with the government in order to provide worthwhile degree-level apprenticeships for the sector and continue to adopt new ways of working. People must want to share and be collaborative – providing a ‘joined-up’ approach to dealing with eth sector’s challenges now and in the future.

Last to the podium was Adrian Hill, Acting Director of Frameworks at Scape Procure. Scape Group is a public-sector partnership that helps to improve the buildings that we use, the roads we travel on and the places we live. Offering a suite of fully managed frameworks, property services, innovative design solutions, community investment opportunities and joint ventures that are available to any public body in the United Kingdom, the Group is in a unique position to comment on how we develop, design and build the infrastructure we need.

An appropriate close to the arena, the essence of Scape Procure and Mr Hill’s address was to remind the audience that with all infrastructure projects, we are not just investing in the projects, but communities.

Collaboration and innovation were the key themes coming from the UK Infrastructure Show Keynote Arena

Adrian Hill

There must be measurability of outcomes, not just outputs, from these investments and real social value embedded within them is absolutely vital in providing infrastructure that works and benefits society.

We heard again, how collaboration, fair payment, continual improvement and adoption of new technologies and innovations was vital for the sector to ensure economic benefits from the investments.

Attendees left the Keynote arena with a lot to think about and an inspired vision of what the future could be for infrastructure.

Register interest or contact us today to discuss booking your 2019 exhibition or sponsorship package asap.