Thursday 11 February 2021 1:00 am

City's professional know-how matched with UK construction expertise could be a global titan

Hannah Vickers is chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) which represents companies in the technical professional services who design, deliver and manage the built environment.

Despite political enthusiasm for ‘Global Britain’, we are missing out on a sizeable slice of a $14 trillion a year worldwide construction market owing to a lack of collaboration between two otherwise successful industries – the built environment sector and financial/advisory services.

The built environment and infrastructure sector is one of the unsung heroes of our economy, supporting more than £570 billion a year of GVA in the UK. We develop and design the transformative infrastructure which not only improves people’s lives, but is hugely exportable in itself.

Whether it is Tideway, Crossrail, HS2 or Nightingale Hospitals, the lessons we have learned in delivering those projects can be applied in other urban centres around the world.

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In the UK and overseas, post-pandemic recovery will be centred on proactive investments in the built environment to act as a catalyst for wider recovery. In this context, even our work as a strategic partner to delivering ambitions on Net Zero – where the global market for environmental expertise and technology alone is estimated at $1 trillion a year – and levelling-up the regions, can be exported too. The Prime Minister has made much of his desire to “build back better” but there is no reason why leaders in other countries, supported by our industry’s modelling and data expertise, will not want to do the same.

However, in order for us to fully seize these opportunities we need to work in partnership with the professional services sector in the City of London. This will allow us to bundle our offering and present bids which cover all aspects of a project for foreign governments and clients – the financing, legal, insurance, design, and construction could all be driven from the UK.

Closer involvement with projects from the outset would also mean risk could be mitigated and build confidence for private and public investors, making our offering even more attractive to governments around the world looking to construction to restart economies.

We are still in unprecedented times, but it feels as if things are starting to click into place.

There is a new global post-Brexit focus for the City of London, and countries around the world looking to kickstart recovery. The final piece of the puzzle would be two significant industries, both leaders in their own fields, joining forces to deliver a new irresistible approach. The Prime Minister cheering on UK PLC to seize the opportunities of a Global Britain is simply the cherry on the cake.

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City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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