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Briefing sheet

Defining and developing the Design Champion role

25 August 2022

ICE will work with the National Infrastructure Commission Design Group (NICDG) and other industry stakeholders to publish guidance for the role.

Defining and developing the Design Champion role
Having a board-level Design Champion in place will help ensure that all projects progress in line with recommended design principles.

"All infrastructure projects to have a board level Design Champion in place by the end of 2021 at either the project, programme or organisational level, supported where appropriate by design panels," decreed the National Infrastructure Strategy in November 2020.

Does your project have a board level Design Champion?

Would you like to input to an ICE and National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) project that's looking to provide some more definition to this role?

In November 2020, the UK’s first ever 30-year National Infrastructure Strategy included the bold requirement that all projects have a board-level Design Champion in place by the end of 2021.

This was a response to the NIC’s 2018 National Infrastructure Assessment, which recommended the creation of the Design Champion role to facilitate delivery of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) Design Principles.

These seek to ensure that projects are designed with respect for people and places while addressing climate and still delivering value.

The need for this role has been enshrined in government policy, including the government’s Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) Routemap to 2030.

However, the skillset that would constitute a ‘Design Champion’ has not been specified to date and greater definition is needed for the industry to take this forward.

This latest working paper builds on the ‘What Makes Good Design?’ work that ICE undertook with the NIC’s Design Group in 2020-21 to understand ICE members’ awareness and understanding of the NIC’s Design Principles.

It outlines the project that the ICE is proposing to undertake in line with the recommendation for ‘ICE to convene a forum with institutions and industry representatives to define what a Design Champion is and commit to creating programmes to support development of board-level champions in all major infrastructure projects.’

This working paper is based on initial desk research and discussion sessions with industry stakeholders to start to address some of the questions, such as:

  • Why do we need a Design Champion?
  • What is meant by ‘board level’?
  • What is the role of a Design Champion?
  • What qualities and experience are needed?

The paper details the background, context, and key objectives of the proposed final report. It draws on select projects that have been proposed as examples of good design and raises questions for exploration in more detail as part of the next stage of the project.

Questions, comments and feedback on this working paper are welcome. We would also like to hear from project teams who'd like to put themselves forward to be part of the next stage of discussions.

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Defining and developing the Design Champion role

Content type: Briefing sheet

Last updated: 23/10/2023

Author: ICE

  • ICE, Institution of Civil Engineers