Today saw the launch of the Institution of Civil Engineers launch Project 13.
While it might sound like a highly classified government project being carried out in a bunker somewhere in New Mexico, the ICE’s new initiative is aimed at revolutionising infrastructure delivery and creating better business models for clients and supply chains.
In summary, Project 13’s aim is to covert the infrastructure sector from one of “transactional relationships” which passes down risk, to one of “enterprise relationships” between clients and suppliers, which focusses on outcomes and maximises performance.
A quick look at what has happened with Carillion, Interserve and Galliford Try in recent times illustrates why changes are needed.
These changes will be driven through the creation of advisory groups, client peer review, support tools for clients and contractors and the creation of a Project 13 community that shares best practice and drives change.
Still in its development phase, more concrete details of how these will work are expected in March next year.
It is easy to be sceptical about these initiatives.
Project 13 member and KPMG head of infrastructure and building Richard Threlfall admitted that he had seen dozens of reports and initiatives aimed at changing the industry.
The chuckles from delegates, indicated that many in the room had too.
So, what is the difference with this one?
“Real client buy in”, came back the answer from the Project 13 leaders.
And it seems it does, with support from a number of high profile clients representing billions of pounds of work.
Heathrow expansion programme director Phil Wilbraham and managing director of the Anglian Water @one alliance Dale Evans lead various workstreams on the Project 13 panel.
Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan, who will be in charge of the country’s largest roads investment programme in history, was also present to pledge his support.
Clearly the industry needs help.
The CN100 analysis of the UK’s biggest contractors showed only too clearly that construction is unsustainable as is, and firms need to make more money.
The fall-out seemed to see the creation of two camps on how this can be achieved.
Those, like Lord Adonis, who believe contractors need to deliver more efficiently to make more money, and those, the majority of the construction industry, who say that the key lies with clients changing approaches to procurement and business models.
The real value of Project 13 seems to be in addressing this second point.
Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds, Project 13’s integration head, painted a picture of a landscape where changes brought about by Project 13 helped construction’s productivity increase by 10 per cent, resulted in more money being available for more projects and saw UK infrastructure delivery celebrated throughout the world.
But it will take action and collaboration to ensure project 13 gets anywhere close to Mr Reynolds infrastructure utopia.
It will be now be down to the positive words heard, and the actions proposed today, to drive change through the country’s infrastructure clients.
And March’s roadmap should provide us with a better indication of whether Project 13 can.