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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

An Innovation and Knowledge Centre funded by EPSRC and Innovate UK

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State of the Nation 2017 calls for UK to lead in digital transformation of infrastructure

last modified Mar 30, 2017 12:49 PM
State of the Nation 2017: Digital Transformation calls on industry and Government to use the Modern Industrial Strategy to drive the uptake of digital technology and data in infrastructure design and delivery.

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This transformation could drive up productivity and unleash the full potential of the UK’s economy, while also creating a world leading industry. This year’s State of the Nation report from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) calls for Government and industry to build upon pioneering work in digital engineering to improve the performance of UK infrastructure and support economic growth.

Chair of the Steering Group, Dr Anne Kemp, said: “The Government rightly recognises the link between improved connectivity and balanced national productivity. 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.

“Similarly, 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 but instead look at better training for our existing workforce.”

Dr Jennifer Schooling, Director of CSIC and a member of the 2017 Steering Group, said: “Excellent infrastructure that is fit for purpose is key to enhancing the productivity of our cities. In the UK, a large proportion of our infrastructure is over 100 years old, yet we need to get ever more out of it with increasing loading and higher performance expectations. This presents a challenge, but there is a huge opportunity in developing digital technologies to enable us to gain improved data on our infrastructure and cities, and to inform investment decisions in management and renewal of existing infrastructure as well as guiding investment in new infrastructure.”

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. This includes the workforce, and the report calls for both industry and the Government to place greater emphasis on upskilling and reskilling mid-career professionals in addition to existing initiatives that target young people.

The report’s key recommendations include:

  • The £23billion 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 State of the Nation series of reports, published annually, assesses the policy challenges for the UK’s infrastructure networks and recommends actions needed to deliver improvements. This year’s findings were based on research and consultation with more than 350 organisations and professionals.