The 10 pillars of the government’s industrial strategy put construction at the heart of the UK economy.
Some do so directly – such as “Upgrading infrastructure” – while others are broader – “Developing skills” and “Investing in science, research and innovation”.
The strategy rightly identifies the need to join up central government investment and local growth priorities more effectively, which is an ambition the whole construction sector supports and can help deliver.
At present, despite needing 200,000 new homes as well as infrastructure upgrades and greater private sector investment, these plans are all considered in silos. Yet we could collectively deliver so much more if we joined them together and recognised that one leads directly to the other.
A perfect opportunity
New homes, towns and cities drive the need for economic infrastructure such as roads, railways and airports, as well as the social infrastructure we rely on to provide health, education and community services.
In turn, these create the demand for private sector development providing offices, shops and leisure facilities. Together, these are the building blocks of our society.
It would seem that the desire for all areas of the country to deliver a high-skilled, competitive economy offers construction the perfect opportunity to show just what is it capable of.
“By delivering homes, infrastructure and development, we can be the driving force behind a strong and successful economy for everyone”
A decade ago, sectors such as automotive and aeronautical came together, put aside their commercial differences and rallied behind a shared goal. Construction feels ready to do this; we’re just not quite sure where to start.
The industrial strategy provides an answer with the offer of support to sectors that can help the government hit its goals.
A new construction hub
We have the major pieces of the puzzle in Construction 2025, in the Construction Leadership Council and in Build UK. Other sectors have created centres of innovation excellence around the country and are now among the most productive industries in the UK.
So how about we use our knowledge and experience and aspire to do the same: to establish a world-class construction innovation centre, open to everyone from major international consultancy practices to local specialist contractors. A place where we can pool our knowledge, share our experiences and solve our problems.
We could meet the government’s ‘open door’ challenge and present a proposal to transform construction through a sector deal. Not only will we become better equipped to respond to the challenge of Brexit, we will take control of our destiny, improve our productivity and meet our skills needs head on.
By delivering the homes, infrastructure and development required by every other business sector, we can be the driving force behind a strong and successful economy for everyone.
Suzannah Nichol is chief executive of Build UK