City deals and devolution agreements must promote digital transformation of infrastructure

City deals and devolution agreements must promote digital transformation of infrastructure

City deals and devolution agreements must include investment in the digital transformation of local infrastructure, using digital technology and data to unlock regional productivity and improve resilience, according to a new report from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

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. This transformation could drive up productivity and unleash the full potential of the UK’s economy, while also creating a world leading industry. One of the report’s key recommendations is that city deals and devolution agreements should include infrastructure investment which enables local authorities to use data more effectively, boost local productivity, and manage security and resilience.

The report’s other 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, helping to drive regional economic growth

The report also 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. It recommends that major infrastructure projects should be used as incubators for skills and innovation.

Penny Marshall, ICE Regional Director, said: “To promote regional economic growth, we must boost productivity through the better use of digital technology, skills and data in local infrastructure, enabling Yorkshire to play its part in maintaining the UK’s place on the world stage. We must also recognise the security risks associated with increasing interdependencies and data availability and manage these better at the local level.”

Dr Anne Kemp, Chair of the ICE State of the Nation 2017 Steering Group, 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.”

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 over 350 organisations and professionals.