Adopting this approach can ensure infrastructure projects deliver key social, economic and environmental outcomes.
The National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline (NICP) sets out the government’s plans for the UK’s future infrastructure projects.
However, the current mix of approaches to developing infrastructure policy across different parts and levels of government and between regions can result in disconnected outcomes.
An integrated systems approach to policy can strengthen decision-making.
This can ensure joined-up projects that address the UK’s long-term challenges, such as climate resilience, decarbonisation and levelling up.
Treasury re-commits to infrastructure pipeline
The chancellor’s commitment to infrastructure investment in the Autumn Statement was fantastic news.
Combined with momentum behind the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), it provides confidence that the government is maintaining the vision set out in the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS).
Now is the time to develop robust, clearly defined infrastructure projects that deliver the social, economic and environmental outcomes our society needs today and in the future.
An integrated systems approach to link projects and policy goals
Developing these projects can be supported by taking an integrated systems approach to policymaking and applying the Treasury’s Green Book principles to decision-making.
An integrated systems approach to policy blends the central government and local authority policies set up to support climate resilience, decarbonisation, levelling up, public health, wellbeing and economic growth.
It helps ensure projects start with a clear definition of their intended outcomes, derived from key policies and integrated into infrastructure project requirements from the outset.
This will give structure to the development of infrastructure projects that are set out in the NIS and linked strategies, such as the IRP and Transport Decarbonisation Plan.
An integrated systems approach to infrastructure can also be applied to technical assessments of existing infrastructure can also strengthen the development and scope of projects.
Putting adequate systems architecture in place to support integrated policy outcomes will help to ensure these projects are staged and measured, and that they progress towards meeting key national and local policy objectives.
Lessons learnt from major infrastructure programmes
The Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s (IPA) reviews of previous major works have highlighted the importance of making ’good investment choices in the initiation of major infrastructure project set ups’.
It has also highlighted the haste to deliver value against an investment choice.
However, the key question to be answered is: what is a good investment choice and what do we mean by value?
An integrated systems approach to policies can help implement the IPA’s recommendations. It can ensure “good investment choices” by tracing project requirements back to the policies that define what is meant by ‘value’.
In doing so, it provides a structure to deliver value against investment choices, while also defining the journey towards a sustainable infrastructure system for our society.
A systems approach to delivering a regional infrastructure vision
I work in the East Midlands. In this region alone there are currently several infrastructure-related consultations and plans being put in motion through various infrastructure projects.
These projects include:
- East Midlands Inland Freeport
- High Speed 2 Eastern Leg
- Midland Mainline Electrification
- East Midlands Development Company
Each has different or unknown targeted outcomes and timeframes for delivery.
To optimise delivery, these individual projects should be configured and sequenced into a defined and integrated infrastructure portfolio.
An integrated systems approach to policy would then enable collaboration between stakeholders to develop and deliver a collective regional vision for its infrastructure against key targets.
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals
Climate resilience, decarbonisation, levelling up, public health, wellbeing and economic growth policies are fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Infrastructure projects should be designed to support sustainable outcomes across those policy areas.
These outcomes need to be detailed and have measurable, achievable targets formalised from the outset of a project and delivered in a staged and progressive manner.
The SDGs, alongside the NIS, provide a robust foundation for projects to adopt the ICE’s Systems Approach to Infrastructure Delivery principles and achieve success against strategic goals.
In the UK, the commitment to infrastructure investment in the Autumn Statement 2022 and the traction behind the IRP, means it is imperative we act now to make progress towards long-term objectives.
In case you missed it:
- The ICE welcomes responses to a consultation on improving the UK’s infrastructure climate resilience.
- We reflect on our recent ‘Financing Net Zero’ Next Steps Programme online panel debate.
- Read our round-up of the key themes impacting global infrastructure policy in 2022.
You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.
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