The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) made its New Year’s resolutions early by publishing the Transforming Infrastructure Performance plan (TIP) on 6 December 2017.
The TIP sets ambitious objectives to transform the way infrastructure in the UK is planned, procured, delivered and operated with the aim of improving the return on investment. Implementation of the plan over the next 10 years will be led by the IPA with cooperation from government and the infrastructure industry.
This long-term strategic approach to infrastructure planning will be welcomed by the infrastructure industry in the UK, especially as it came just weeks after the UK slipped from first to fourth place in the CMS Infrastructure Index.
The TIP identifies three key challenges:
- prioritising the right projects to maximise the benefits delivered for the amount invested;
- improving productivity in delivery by adopting digital technologies, new business models and better integrated supply chain management; and
- using technology to enhance the performance of existing assets and the design of new infrastructure to maximise the overall benefits of investment.
Responding to these challenges, the TIP splits its approach to transformation into four sections:
1. Benchmarking for better performance
The TIP recognises that project sponsors do not always have access to robust and sufficiently granular data to benchmark their cost and schedule estimates or are not consistently required to use benchmarks. Separately, the TIP also recognises that there is currently no consistent set of metrics to measure performance (as opposed to cost or schedule).
To address this, the IPA’s first priority is to establish a benchmarking team in 2018 to promote the effective use of cost and performance benchmarking. The team will support the use of benchmarks to ensure that estimates give due regard to comparator data. Metrics to measure the performance of individual assets and the networks and systems within which they operate will also be devised.
2. Alignment and integration
This section of the TIP seeks to align policy objectives and project business cases, as policies move from appraisal and approval into procurement and delivery. The TIP calls for projects and programmes to be planned from the outset to support priority economic, social and environmental objectives. Wider government objectives should be clearly articulated and incorporated to anchor the project from the start. Another challenge considered in this section is how integrated planning can improve coordination between central, local and regional authorities when planning major programmes. A key role here is given to cross-sector and cross-departmental groups.
3. Procurement for growth
The Procurement for Growth section of the TIP seeks to develop commercial models and relationships to boost productivity. The government’s influence and buying power is crucial in this context, and the IPA will explore the benefits of extending long-term budget settlements to new sectors. The IPA will also support government construction clients in building their capability to manage and procure whole life value and will update the Government Construction Strategy 2018 to promote the standardisation and simplification of procurement and risk allocation.
4. Smarter infrastructure
This section of the TIP targets improvements in infrastructure delivery through modern methods of construction such as offsite manufacture, use of digital technology, and sharing of innovation and best practice. For example, the TIP proposes that five government departments will adopt a presumption in favour of offsite construction by 2019 and the IPA will formally join i3P (an independent innovation community) to support faster uptake of innovation and best practice across government.
As we start the New Year and look further ahead to the next ten years, the TIP encourages the UK infrastructure industry to resolve to create a more innovative and agile sector with a focus on modern methods of construction, advances in technology and better productivity. Admirable resolutions for the next decade.