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Digital transformation of infrastructure key to UK’s future, says report

The infrastructure sector needs to take advantage of digital technology to keep up with the pace of change, according to the Institution of Civil Engineers

The UK infrastructure sector must get to grips with digital transformation to fuel economic growth and increasing demands, according to a report.

The Institution of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) State of the nation report, published 22 March 2017, shows the need for transforming the sector through the use of digital technology.

It calls for industry and government to ensure the right skills are in place to “unlock the full value of new technology and data assets”.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Anne Kemp, chair of the ICE report’s steering group, said increasing demands on both physical and virtual infrastructure is putting pressure on the already existing infrastructure and networks.

“We cannot build our way out of these new challenges, we have to do more with what we already have,” she said.

“A digital transformation offers the most cost-effective way of adding value to our infrastructure. We must adopt new integrated digital approaches to managing and opertating existing assets and building our future infrastructure.

“We will have our existing infrastructure for a long time so it’s as important to consider how we futureproof this as it is to address the new assets.”

Kemp added that the industry also needs to work to harness the value of data and information.

“Better data is the basis for better information, and ultimately that leads to better decision making. But before we can make that shift, we have to address data standards. Clients should enforce interoperability as a core aspect of the procurement process, making data appropriately accessible and usable across all sectors and across all platforms,” she said.

The report sets out a series of recommendations relating to productivity, behaviours and building resilience, and calls on the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to put digital transformation “at the heart” of the industrial strategy.

Read more about digital transformation

It said more effective knowledge sharing is also “required” as “commercial memory is lost as teams break up toward the end of a project, or when people move on from short-term contracts, meaning opportunities to reflect on lessons which could benefit future projects are missed”.

It also recommends that the industry, contractors and government use large infrastructure projects as incubators for skills and innovation, but also “apply this at a smaller scale, groups of projects should be turned into programmes so that innovation and skills can be embedded through the whole asset lifecycle”.

While it also recognises the importance of security through greater resilience, Kemp said it’s “vital these aspects of digital transformation do not act as a barrier to implementation” or an excuse not to do so.

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