The UK can't build its way out of population growth pressures, says the Institution of Civil Engineers

Rebecca Smith
ICE's report said digital transformation would help the UK get more out of its existing infrastructure
ICE's report said digital transformation would help the UK get more out of its existing infrastructure (Source: Getty)

The UK cannot build its way out of the pressures from population growth and climate change, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has warned today.

In its State of the Nation 2017 report, ICE said the UK needs to adopt new digital approaches to “managing and operating existing assets and building future infrastructure”.

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Dr Anne Kemp, chair of the ICE State of the Nation steering group, said: “We often think of infrastructure as fixed networks and assets, but the reality of this is changing. If we truly consider infrastructure as a service, then making this mental shift is essential.”

The UK’s productivity is poor compared to other G7 countries; 35 per cent behind Germany and 18 per cent behind the G7 average, according to the ONS. And the report, which carried out research and consultation with over 350 organisations and professionals, said there remained a direct connection between the efficiency and effectiveness of the UK’s infrastructure and productivity within communities across the UK.

ICE calls on the government to put greater emphasis on upskilling and reskilling mid-career professionals in addition to existing initiatives that target young people.

Other recommendations include the suggestion that the £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund should prioritise digital transformation of both construction methods and physical infrastructure to increase capacity and performance of existing assets and networks. ICE also said the government should put digital at the heart of the infrastructure element of the modern industrial strategy “realising the UK’s potential as a world-leader in this sector”.

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The report also stressed the importance of using major infrastructure projects as skill builders, using them as incubators for skills and innovation.

“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,” Kemp said. “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.”

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