UK Infrastructure – What difference can technology make?

Technology and infrastructure Ellis Fox Blog

When a major infrastructure fails to deliver on time or on budget, everyone loses. The contractors involved, the investors, and members of the public and business owners that were promised better transport or utilities. It’s no wonder that when new major infrastructure projects are announced, they’re met with broad opposition and skepticism. To date the infrastructure sector has consistently failed to deliver on its promises. There’s never just one thing to blame. It’s always multiple factors and the complexity of engineering infrastructure projects that result in delays and budget over-runs.

The problem is that the current trajectory is not sustainable. The UK needs better infrastructure if it is to cope with increasing demand. Not to mention that current aging infrastructure is costing a fortune in public funds to repair and maintain. Given the situation, it’s almost ironic that the one thing that could help infrastructure developers, because of its ability to manage complexity, is not being adopted or implemented – at least not at the scale required in order to be really effective.

We are now living in a digital-first world where technology is facilitating better communications, better operations and better management. There are a number of technologies ideally suited to making infrastructure development more efficient, so the question remains, why is the sector as a whole not keeping up with the technological advances of the modern world?

The pace of change is accelerating, fueled in part by the pandemic and the changes that has brought with it. Technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence are being refined and integrated into business systems to support business operations. Digital scanning is helping to monitor on site progress and spot mistakes as they happen, so that they can be immediately rectified rather than causing stoppages and delays later on.

But perhaps one of the biggest changes that needs to come into effect is greater collaboration, where multiple departments share information and work together rather than only focusing on their core areas of expertise. This could significantly improve productivity and reduce errors because in the process teams are made aware of how their work impacts the overall project. In particular sharing of expertise in the planning stages can help mitigate risks during construction.

Infrastructure development is going to have its hands full trying to meet nationwide demands for better transport and utilities, as well as navigating the challenges brought on by COVID, Brexit and net-zero targets. It’s time to make use of the benefits that digital technology has to offer if it is to be successful.