ICE President Andrew Wyllie returned to Loughborough University last month to present the prizes for the MERIT competition – 30 years after he last attended as captain of a team which was runner-up in the finals.
A team from Atkins in India has taken home the top prize at this year's MERIT competition, the international construction business game.
MERIT–management, enterprise, risk, innovation and teamwork – is a web-based computer simulation that allows young professionals operating in groups of up to six, acting as a board of directors and managers, to run their own construction company.
For 2019, 94 teams competed, working from locations around the world. Then the leading eight teams – a record number this year - were selected for the finals In Loughborough, where for two days they competed against each other over the final eight rounds.
The ‘Avengers’ team from Qatar, comprising staff from US-based engineering company KBR and their client, the Qatar public works department Aschghal, came into the finals as hot favourites, and looked set to become the first team ever to lead the competition from start to finish.
But then in the penultimate round, an unfortunate error (mixing up the allocation of site costs for two jobs) allowed a team from central India to overtake them at the last gasp: the five-strong ‘Panchatantra’ team from Atkins’ large office in Bangalore ended up winning by a substantial margin.
History repeats itself
Thirty years earlier, Andrew Wyllie suffered a similar fate to the Avengers, as he explained to the competitors.
His Taylor Woodrow team was in the lead approaching the end of the 1989 finals. Then the organisers introduced a surprise ‘recession’ to challenge the teams.
Wyllie refused to price at a loss to win work: another team did, and ended up winning the competition. But Wyllie was convinced he was right and remembered the lesson.
Fast forward 20 years. Wyllie had risen to managing director of Taylor Woodrow Construction before moving to Costain as chief executive. Then came the 2008 recession. Wyllie remembered his MERIT experience and again refused to price bids at a loss to secure work – a decision to which he attributes much of Costain’s subsequent success.
At the end of the competition, Wyllie congratulated the winners - and consoled the runners-up with the hope that one of them would, like him, be back at Loughborough in 30 years’ time to present the prizes.
MERIT is supported by ICE, as well as by the Chartered Institute of Building and the Construction Industry Training Board.