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Infrastructure blog

Behind the scenes of the State of the Nation report on investment

04 October 2018
Ayo Sokale and Asif Huq, two of ICE President Robert Mair’s Future Leaders, have spent the year supporting the work of the ICE policy team and the steering group crafting this year’s State of the Nation report.
Behind the scenes of the State of the Nation report on investment
ICE’s State of the Nation (SoN) is an annual report, this year focusing on investment. Paul Sheffield, steering group chair for the report, highlighted the need for why action to improve financing and funding is of vital importance to meeting the country’s future infrastructure need in his recent blog post.   
As part of our role as ICE President’s Future Leaders, we’ve been members of the steering group, helping to steer the report and provide oversight of the process. Here, we’ll give you a behind-the-scenes look at the process of how the report has come together.

A chance for young engineers to have a say

Being involved in the project has been an extraordinary opportunity for us as young professionals – and has admittedly been quite a steep learning curve. As part of the steering group, we’ve been involved in everything from desk-based research to supporting regional workshops and actively feeding back and influencing the development of the report.
It’s vitally important that any work which looks to meet need as far out as mid-century – as the report does - includes the perspective of young people. It’s these people, ourselves included, who’ll use the assets we build the longest after all. It’s also our generation whose attitudes to ownership and use of assets is changing, in large part thanks to disruptive technologies which will influence everything from how and where we live, work and enjoy downtime.
Work began on SoN last December, with the steering group and the ICE policy team meeting for the first time. It felt like the bringing together of the Justice League, seeking a better future for our nations through infrastructure, the same thing which motivated ICE’s Invisible Superheroes of the past.

Developing a plan

The policy team talked us through the rationale for 2018 ’s report covering investment, and we set to developing the scope, project plan and approach we’d take.
While it’s the policy team who do much of the heavy lifting, and the steering group who provide expertise and direction, the report’s topic is decided each year by ICE members and reflects the concerns of civil engineers and the wider industry.
One of the outcomes of the first meeting was that we should take a research approach which focused on four core economic infrastructure sectors: rail, road, energy and water. We then reached out to our networks to engage industry experts and stakeholders through interviews and focus groups.

Figure 1: Project Cycle

Carrying out the research

Following this initial meeting, we were tasked with undertaking a literature review to gather background on the investment landscape – summarising the lay of the land in terms of existing studies.
Ayo drafted a report looking at long-term infrastructure need in the UK to 2050, taking inspiration from ICE’s 2016 National Needs Assessment, and Asif looked at how funding and financing can flow through infrastructure sectors in other leading economies.
Our literature review provided a bedrock for the key evidence themes and priorities for the report’s research phase. The research phase consisted of evidence-gathering through five expert focus groups, multiple interviews and seven regional workshops in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Engaging stakeholders

The focus groups engaged experts from the four sectors, as well as high-level members of the investment and financial community. These meetings provided us with input which helped move development of the report’s evidence on from the initial literature research, giving a reflection of the realities of those at the sharp edge of delivery and building affordable business plans.
We also held regional workshops throughout the country. These were attended by members of ICE, the public, and local stakeholders, engineers and business leaders.
We both personally attended workshops in London, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and it was interesting to learn more about the differences in policy demand and pressures within different regions and the growing desire for more devolved decision making when it comes to infrastructure.
A recurring theme in the workshops was the need to invest in infrastructure which is inclusive, something ICE is currently working on through our programme of work on inclusive cities.

Public opinion

Another important part of the report’s evidence-gathering, to gain as wide a range of views as possible, is the public consultation undertaken by Copper Consultancy.
ICE commissioned a poll to survey public attitudes and opinion to infrastructure and additional investment. We feel it’s important that the public’s voice is heard when it comes to how the government spends the money they earn, or when companies ask for higher bills to invest more.
By the time the fourth steering group meeting took place in July, we’d completed the majority of our research engaging over 150 people. We undertook a PESTLE analysis to evaluate the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental implications of our findings.
Work has since focused on reviewing report drafting, with steering group members offering input and providing their expertise.

Ayo and Asif have both contributed to State of the Nation 2018: Investment, which will launch on 18 October 2018. Asif has also contributed to State of the Nation, Scotland 2018: Investment, which will launch in early November.

ICE President’s Future Leader Scheme

Since the early days of ICE, there’s been a tradition of mentorship between senior engineers and those just starting their career. In 2005, Gordon Masterton reinvigorated the tradition with the ICE President’s Apprentice Scheme, now known as the ICE President’s Future Leader Scheme. 
If you’d like to become an ICE President’s Future Leader, you can find out more information about the scheme, including how to apply, here.