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The Big Debate: How do we improve certainty in delivery?

Event organised by ICE

12 February 2024
17:00 - 18:45 GMT
Saïd Business School
Park End
Oxford, OX1 1HP
United Kingdom

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The ICE, together with the Saïd Business School, invites you to our upcoming event exploring how to improve certainty in delivery.

All over the world, post-pandemic market capacity issues are leading to rising costs and delays for major infrastructure projects. Governments everywhere are finding their original visions are no longer feasible.

In the UK, the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 has been cancelled. In Australia 50 projects have been cut as part of a major infrastructure review.

We need to get this right. If we don’t, we'll only see more projects cancelled and more communities deprived of the infrastructure services they need.

Some governments are grasping the challenge. The Hong Kong Chief Executive’s latest policy address emphasises the role of digital technology in construction.

The ICE will start 2024 with a next steps programme on HS2: what lessons can the profession and governments learn from the phase 2 cancellation, after so much time and effort had been invested?

The ICE will also be supporting the UK’s Infrastructure Client Group as it launches its own productivity programme.

This event will serve as a launchpad for these programmes, with expert insight from our panel of industry leaders who will all have perspectives on how to improve certainty in project delivery.

Join us and join the debate.

In partnership with

Saïd Business School

Saïd Business School

Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford blends the best of new and old. We are a young, vibrant, and entrepreneurial business school deeply embedded in the world’s most prestigious university.


17:00 - 17:30

Registration and refreshments

17:30 - 17:35

Welcome from Mark Hansford, director of Engineering Knowledge, Institution of Civil Engineers

17:35 - 18:00


18:00 - 18:40

Q&A session

18:40 - 18:45

Summary and next steps by Ed McCann, Past President, Institution of Civil Engineers


Event close


Mark Hansford

Mark Hansford

Institution of Civil Engineers

director of engineering knowledge

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Mark Hansford

Mark is the director of Engineering Knowledge at ICE. He is also a civil engineer and Fellow of ICE, and throughout his 20-plus year career he has sought roles that have allowed him to work with others to both promote the profession and provide professional engineers with the information to help them become better engineers.

He has a MEng in Civil Engineering (First class) from the University of Birmingham and spent three years as a practicing engineer with consultant Atkins before joining New Civil Engineer in 2000, a title he edited for five years before joining the ICE in February 2020.

At his previous role with New Civil Engineer, he’s visited and written technical reports on some of the world’s most spectacular structures in including the Burj Khalifa, the Brenner Base Tunnel and Vladivostok’s Russky Island bridge.

He’s also reported from the scene of a host of international engineering disasters including a bridge collapse in northern Portugal, a tunnel fire in Baltimore and tsunami-struck Sri Lanka. And in 2003 he was the first construction reporter into Iraq following the second Gulf War.

Nick Smallwood

Nick Smallwood

Infrastructure and Projects Authority


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Nick Smallwood

Nick Smallwood is the chief executive officer of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and head of Government’s Project Delivery Function.

Nick is the former vice president for Projects Engineering and Chief Projects Engineer at Shell.

Nick has 40 years’ experience of managing complex project portfolios and having developed Shell’s Global Project Academy. At Shell, Nick was accountable for managing how projects were delivered and a variety of significant improvement programmes.

Nick was also a trustee of the board of the Association for Project Management (APM) until November 2019, where he contributed to the overall development of the UK’s project management profession.

Dervilla Mitchell CBE FICE

Dervilla Mitchell CBE FICE


deputy chair

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Dervilla Mitchell CBE FICE

Dervilla Mitchell is deputy chair of Arup Group. Dervilla trained as a civil engineer and has spent most of her working life in the UK, where she has been involved in a wide range of projects laterally leading the design of major building projects. A large part of her career has been involved with aviation, designing terminal buildings including T5 Heathrow, T2 Dublin and more recently Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal. Other notable projects include Portcullis House, Westminster, and the Athletes Village for London 2012.

Prior to her current role she was executive chair of the UK, India, Middle East and Africa Region of Arup responsible for over 6,000 people.

Dervilla is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Irish Academy of Engineering, Engineers Ireland, and the Royal Academy of Engineering. She has been active in championing diversity in the construction sector and supported initiatives to encourage young people to consider engineering as a career.

She was a member of the Prime Ministers Council for Science and Technology for a decade and chairs the National Engineering Policy Centre’s decarbonising UK working group.

She was awarded a CBE for services to engineering in 2014 and received an honorary doctorate from University College Dublin in 2016 and Imperial College, London in 2021.

Ed McCann

Ed McCann

Expedition Engineering

Senior Director

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Ed McCann

Ed is an experienced project director and is the Immediate Past President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was fundamental in growing Expedition from a startup to Building Magazine’s Engineering Consultant of the Year in 2012. As a senior director at Expedition, Ed provides invaluable leadership and experience to our organisation.

He is technical, an excellent communicator, enthusiastic, and has a deep understanding of the construction process. He is particularly skilled in strategic consultancy, feasibility studies, and design.

Ed’s career has taken him to lead projects all over the world. He was the project director for the multi award-winning Infinity Bridge and the Olympic 2012 Velodrome. Environmental factors and efficiency are drivers for Ed’s current projects that see him work with infrastructure clients to improve processes and implement new technologies. Projects include creating and delivering a productivity workstream for HS2, designing the Rolls-Royce SMR Program Site Factory for BAM Nuttall, and helping develop the Berkeley Homes modular housing system.

Ed is a founder trustee and trustee board member, former chair of the USL Board.

He is passionate about developing talent in the industry with quality training and education, a passion that led him to become the co-creator of the Constructionarium. This non profit organisation delivers education and training to students and professionals across the built environment sector. He is also co-founder of the Get It Right Initiative which aims to reduce errors in the industry.

As a respected thought leader, Ed is often invited to speak at various events, write articles, and deliver lectures, and has also made television programmes on civil engineering.

Dr David Prout

Dr David Prout

Oxford University

Pro-Vice Chancellor

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Dr David Prout

Dr David Prout has been pro-vice-chancellor (planning and resources) at Oxford University since September 2017, where he has responsibility for institutional and strategic planning, resource allocation, the University estate and its £2 billion capital plan.

Previously he has worked in central and local government, most recently (2013-17) as director general for the £50 billion High Speed 2 rail programme. Prior to that he was director general for local government at the Department for Communities and local government, where he was responsible for all aspects of local government policy and funding, for the Fire Service, and for tackling extremism.

Among other roles, he has also served as executive director for housing, planning and regeneration at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (2007-2009); director for local government policy in the office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2004-2007) and private and principal private secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister (1999-2004).

David Coles

David Coles

Department for Transport

chief engineer

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David Coles

David joined the Department for Transport’s High Speed 2 Rail Group in 2016 and was appointed chief engineer for the whole department in 2020. He leads a team advising on technical and operational aspects of DfT’s infrastructure projects, their influence on cost, value and risk and where we should be looking to innovate. 

He is a chartered civil engineer and director and fellow of both those institutions and former chairman of the Railway Civil Engineers’ Association.

In 2020 he completed the Infrastructure Project Authority’s Major Projects Leadership Academy and in 2021 he was elected to ICE Council.

Mark Thurston

Mark Thurston

HS2 Ltd

former chief executive officer

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Mark Thurston

As the CEO of High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd, Mark had the privilege and ultimate responsibility for leading the company that has been charged with delivering a new high speed railway that will connect the major cities of the UK.

The vision is for HS2 to be a catalyst for growth across Britain, become the backbone of Britain’s rail network and contribute to a ‘green’ transport system that helps reduce carbon. It will better connect the country’s major cities and economic hubs and help deliver a stronger, more balanced economy, better able to compete on the global stage. 

HS2 Ltd began operations in January 2009. The company currently employs around 1800 people, with the majority of staff working at its headquarters in Birmingham; currently there are some 25,000 people working on the programme across the UK.

Mark joined HS2 Ltd in March 2017 and stood down at the end of September 2023; he has over 30 years’ experience including leadership roles in engineering, project and programme management and business operations. Having worked for client, consulting and delivery bodies, Mark has a successful track record across a mix of major organisations and investment programmes, having worked on both the London 2012 Olympics and Crossrail. 

He was previously the European MD of engineering and projects company CH2M and started his career as a technician apprentice at London Underground.

For more information please contact:

Paula Dinu

Sustainable Development Goals: