Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building


Let’s use AI and data to drive our recovery

28 September 2020 | By Richard Robinson

Construction must ‘harness data, AI and digital twins’ to aid recovery from covid, says Richard Robinson

Image: Dreamstime

The impact of covid-19 has been devastating and will continue to affect virtually every aspect of society for the foreseeable future. Recovery will take time, and we must all get used to constantly evolving norms as we look to keep the pandemic at bay while safely going about our daily lives, where we can, be it professionally or personally.

Atkins’ latest Infrastructure Insights report, which surveyed nearly 400 public and private sector industry leaders, is about understanding the present, so we can help steer tomorrow. We know that covid has presented huge problems for the infrastructure sector, but we mustn’t lose sight of the role we will play in conceiving of and preparing for the future.

The report asks what more the private sector can do to aid recovery… and highlights the importance of digital innovation in accelerating projects and ensuring that we build back smarter as well as better.

A total of 95% of the survey respondents stated that digital innovation will be increasingly important after the covid-19 crisis. Nearly two-thirds want to see digital innovations from the design, engineering and consultancy sector to help support their organisation during the covid-19 crisis and recovery.

For me, this represents an incredible opportunity for our industry to help shape the UK’s recovery by harnessing data, AI and digital twins to give us greater certainty when delivering projects. It’s no secret that we need to transform how we design and build to improve productivity and offer greater predictability – the evidence is there for all to see when projects are delayed or costs spiral.

Respondents expect big changes in the infrastructure sector following covid-19. There is general agreement that the sector will not emerge from the crisis in the same form, with digital innovation and working from home playing a much bigger part than before. Effectively adopting digital innovation in particular is seen as crucial to accelerating growth.

As the government looks to accelerate infrastructure development, I hope it will consider embracing a procurement model that actively incentivises the use of the latest digital tools and in so doing puts the industry on the path to a more productive, innovative future.

Richard Robinson is Atkins CEO UK & Europe