Construction chief hints at rewards for innovation
Peter Hansford looks at incentives in public sector tenders
Construction companies that can demonstrate innovation could be given additional weighting in public sector tenders, according to the government’s new chief construction adviser Peter Hansford.
In an interview with CM, Hansford identified innovation as one of four priorities he will be addressing in his new position, the others being cost, carbon and skills.
“What are the barriers to innovation? Fragmentation [of the industry] is one, and so is the way we procure. In a competitive environment, people may be deterred from discussing their innovative ideas. So we could look at incentivising innovation in the procurement process,” said Hansford.
He added that he hoped to promote a range of construction innovations, covering “products, processes and people”.
Hansford took up his new post on 1 December following the departure of Paul Morrell OBE. Although based at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, his remit is to advise all branches of central government on procuring projects and act as a focal point on construction issues across Whitehall. He will also chair the Government Construction Board and sit on the Green Construction Board.
A former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers with a background in major infrastructure projects, Hansford was a member of the steering group for the Infrastructure UK Cost Review 2010 study, set up to explore how the cost of large infrastructure projects in the UK could be reduced.
Another key priority is co-ordinating the government’s new industrial strategy for construction, a document that will draw on the views of an 18-strong advisory council. The strategy is expected to cover growth and innovation, supply chain issues, engaging SMEs, construction skills and training, access to finance, and encouraging overseas trade.
The advisory council includes Chris Kane MCIOB, managing director of Poole-based SME Greendale Construction, a Chartered Building Company.
Hansford said: “The strategy will not change the Government Construction Strategy, or the Green Construction Board, or the BIM strategy – these are important building blocks. This is about a wider-range vision for construction in the UK for the next 10 years.
“It will create the narrative that links together the key building blocks. For instance, how does BIM support the cost and carbon agendas? It will create the coherence between the different things that are happening.”
But Hansford’s main challenge is to ensure that the efficiency-boosting plans set in train in 2009-10 – including the Government Construction Strategy, the Infrastructure Cost Review and the government’s BIM strategy – deliver results. “There are good strategies out there, it’s now about integrating them and delivery,” he said.
Hansford denied that implementing the Government Construction Strategy, which aims to contribute to a 15-20% cut in costs by 2015 via measures including the roll out of Project Bank Accounts, the PAS 91 procurement standard and 30-day payment terms, was progressing slowly.
“I don’t think we can expect instant success on these things. I was heavily involved in [Treasury unit] Infrastructure UK for two years, and we concluded there’s no silver bullet, there’s no single initiative that in itself results in the cost savings we’re looking for. But all together, they do.”
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