Government and industry should build on existing work in digital engineering to improve the performance of UK infrastructure and unlock growth across the country, according to ICE’s State of the Nation 2017: Digital Transformation.
The report, published this week, says government should use its Industrial Strategy to drive the uptake of digital technology and data in the design and delivery of infrastructure, which will boost productivity and the UK economy.
According to the report, the UK cannot build its way out of pressures from population growth and climate change. Digital transformation would enable the UK to do more with existing assets and networks, a much more cost-effective way of adding value to infrastructure.
This includes the workforce, with a call for both industry and government to place greater emphasis on upskilling and reskilling of mid-career professionals in addition to existing initiatives that target young people.
The report also emphasises security challenges and examines methods for managing the trade-offs between resilience and security.
The State of the Nation: Digital Transformation report was launched this week at ICE’s One Great George Street headquarters by ICE President Tim Broyd to government and industry representatives, including Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation.
Dr Anne Kemp, Atkins Director of BIM Strategy and Development, who chaired the report’s steering group, said:
“Our decision-making must put the user at the centre, delivering new infrastructure that enables people to get to work and enjoy their leisure time. However, much of our current infrastructure will still be here in 30 years’ time so we must use technology to do things smarter and make more of what we already have.
“We must be more imaginative in what we mean by digital transformation and what it can achieve.
"We cannot afford to wait for the next generation to arrive with the right skills. The current adult skills agenda must go beyond basic digital literacy initiatives and look at better training for our existing workforce.”
Speaking at the launch, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, welcomed the report and stressed government support for ICE’s agenda.
She said that the £23bn National Productivity and Investment Fund announced in the Autumn Statement and developed in the Budget includes money for a range of projects including digital signalling on the railways and research into autonomous vehicles.
ICE’s key recommendations include:
- The £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund should prioritise digital transformation of both construction methods and physical infrastructure which increases capacity and performance of existing assets and networks.
- The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy should put digital transformation at the heart of the Infrastructure Pillar of the Modern Industrial Strategy, realising the UK’s potential as a world leader in this sector.
- Industry and government must ensure that people at all points in their career have the right skills to adapt to advances in technology and information management. Major infrastructure projects should be used as incubators for skills and innovation.
The report drew its evidence from over 350 organisations and industry experts at regional workshops, focus groups, and stakeholder interviews. It forms the basis of a ICE’s Digital Transformation campaign which will further explore the recommendations and discussion points from the report.
A number of knowledge events and conferences will support the campaign including October’s Shaping A Digital World conference.
More views on digital transformation
- For ICE’s Infrastructure Blog, Kelly Forbes, ICE Policy Manager looks at what growing connectivity means for our physical infrastructure, disruptive new technologies and increasing interdependencies.
- Jennifer Whyte, Professor of Systems Integration at Imperial College London and member of the State of the Nation 2017: Digital Transformation report’s steering group, in a recent blog post discussed the challenges and opportunities associated with digital transformation of the infrastructure sector.
- The resilience and security considerations of increasingly connected technology are one of the report’s key themes. Kim Van Rooyen and Nathan Jones, from professional service company Turner & Townsend give their views in a blog on cyber security in the built environment.
Download the report
Download the report