• 13 September 2021

Priming the pipeline

Waterman’s COO for infrastructure and environment and Chair of ACE’s Pipeline and Procurement Group, Neil Humphrey, tells us how ACE improved the latest £30bn construction pipeline to create even more opportunities for members.

For any consultancy, having a pipeline of work which delivers business confidence is crucial. Not just in terms of the balance sheet, but in ensuring that consultancies have the time and space to create the complex mix of knowledge, expertise and experience required to tackle some of society’s most pressing design issues.

In the UK, where public sector spend on infrastructure makes up nearly half of overall investment, understanding that spend is especially important. In 2018, the Government recognised this and published a ten year forward look, the National Infrastructure Pipeline. This was followed up with a smaller document and spreadsheet, the National Infrastructure and Construction Procurement Pipeline which was released last year to help our sector and the construction industry more widely, plan for post-pandemic recovery.

Both of these documents have proved to be valuable in identifying opportunities for businesses, but coverage has been patchy, especially for last year’s document, which was prepared in the midst of Covid and where local government investment details were especially lacking.

In response, the team at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and I have been engaging with the Infrastructure Projects Authority to help improve the report further and make it even more valuable for members and the industry.

We’re delighted to see that they’ve taken on board some of our suggestions, notably around adding more detail on which projects are suitable for which audiences – for example consultancies, MMC, etc.. We were also pleased to see that they reduced the de-minimis threshold which has meant more complete coverage of the pipeline at a local government level.

ACE is producing more detailed analysis in a soon to be published member-only briefing, but my initial review of today’s report, is positive. With over £30bn of procurements in 2021, and nearly £650bn of projected investment over the next decade, there is plenty for our sector to be pleased about. Specifically, over the next year, the pipeline includes £1bn of demand for ‘architectural, engineering and design services’.

With £22bn of projects earmarked for MMC over the next 12 months, and £78bn over the next decade, the pipeline has one eye firmly on the future of the construction sector. This was reinforced with the publication of its sister document, Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030, which summarises the IPA’s major change programme, with a particular focus on prioritising the societal outcomes we all want to see, and the use of data, technology and improved delivery models to achieve them. As our Consultancy 4.0 initiative shows this emphasis plays very much to the strengths of modern consultancies.

Neil will be speaking at ACE’s special Policy Forum meeting on Thursday 22 September held for ACE and EIC members. He will be joined by Simon Lawrence, IPA Strategy Director and Emma-Jane Houghton, Commercial Director for the NHS New Hospital Programme. To find out more click here.

To read the full ‘Analysis of the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline 2021’ click here.

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