Priming the pipeline for construction

Neil Humphrey explains below how ACE improved the latest £30bn construction pipeline to create even more opportunities for its members.

For any consultancy, having a pipeline of work which delivers business confidence is crucial. Not just in terms of the balance sheet, but in ensuring that consultancies have the time and space to create the complex mix of knowledge, expertise and experience required to tackle some of society’s most pressing design issues.

In the UK, where public sector spend on infrastructure makes up nearly half of overall investment, understanding that spend is especially important. In 2018, the government recognised this and published a ten-year forward look, the National Infrastructure Pipeline. This was followed up with a smaller document and spreadsheet, the National Infrastructure and Construction Procurement Pipeline which was released last year to help our sector and the construction industry more widely plan for post-pandemic recovery.

Both of these documents have proved to be valuable in identifying opportunities for businesses, but coverage has been patchy, especially for last year’s document, which was prepared in the midst of Covid and where local government investment details were especially lacking.

In response, the team at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and I have been engaging with the Infrastructure Projects Authority to help improve the report further and make it even more valuable for members and the industry.

We’re delighted to see that they’ve taken on board some of our suggestions, notably around adding more detail on which projects are suitable for which audiences – for example consultancies, MMC, etc. We were also pleased to see that they reduced the de-minimis threshold which has meant more complete coverage of the pipeline at a local government level.

ACE is producing more detailed analysis in a soon to be published member-only briefing, but my initial review of today’s report, is positive. With over £30bn of procurements in 2021 and nearly £650 billion of projected investment over the next decade there is plenty for our sector to be pleased about. Specifically, over the next year, the pipeline includes £1bn of demand for ‘architectural, engineering and design services’.  

With £22bn of projects earmarked for MMC over the next 12 months, and £78bn over the next decade, the pipeline has one eye firmly on the future of the construction sector. This was reinforced with the publication of its sister document, Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030, which summarises the IPA’s major change programme, with a particular focus on prioritising the societal outcomes we all want to see, and the use of data, technology and improved delivery models to achieve them. As our Consultancy 4.0 initiative shows, this emphasis plays very much to the strengths of modern consultancies, along with our focus as a sector on net zero – perhaps the biggest challenge of all.

For ACE and EIC members wanting to digest this announcement, they are welcome to join our special policy forum meeting on Thursday 22 September. We will be joined by IPA strategy director Simon Lawrence as guest speaker and we will also hear from Emma-Jane Houghton, commercial director for the NHS New Hospital Programme about the specific opportunities in that sector. 

Please do join us for the online meeting if you can.

Neil Humphrey is the chief operating officer at Waterman and chair of ACE’s procurement group.