Establishing major projects industry can drive net zero and levelling up success

With nearly three quarters of major projects currently falling behind on expectations, our new report, in partnership with the CBI, includes key recommendations to achieve successful delivery on flagship government policies.

Strengthening the role of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) to improve major project delivery can help the government’s net zero and levelling up agendas, according to our new report in partnership with the CBI.

Programmes with purpose: delivering success in government’s major projects sets out a series of recommendations to improve the delivery of the Government’s Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) across a range of critical sectors including transport, utilities and defence. Expenditure across the GMPP stood at £524 billion according to the latest figures, but with almost three quarters (135/184) of major projects currently falling behind expectations to deliver their objectives on time and on budget.

Key recommendations

A key recommendation is for the IPA to work with the Cabinet Office to publish a Major Projects Playbook, setting out expectations and best practice on delivering social value, meeting carbon commitments and embedding export potential as a key benchmark of project success. The objective behind the playbook should be to break down siloes that exist between different areas of sector specialism, helping to establish a connected major projects ‘industry’.

The report includes 13 case studies examining the positive ripple effects of successful major projects, from exporting expertise in defence through the Type 31 Frigate programme, to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs across the country via HS2. Other examples of best practice show success rests upon companies working collaboratively to deliver against ambitious targets, including on National Highways’ A14 project and the development of new nuclear power capacity at Sizewell C.

Simplifying decision-making

It also recommends transferring oversight of the National Infrastructure Pipeline to the UK Infrastructure Bank; simplifying decision-making and prioritisation. To strengthen governance and accountability, the IPA and Cabinet Office, with insights from leading private sector partners, should explore what incentives could help reduce churn among people leading major projects, defined as senior responsible owners. The report also proposes a Project Support and Delivery Unit is established within the IPA to provide advice and support to major projects.

Following last month’s Budget, the need to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely could not be clearer as the UK economy continues its recovery, especially against a backdrop of supply chain challenges fuelling rising prices for raw materials and increasing interest rates.

The research has been developed with insight from the industry and builds on the publication of the Outsourcing and Construction Playbooks and updates to the IPA Project Routemap – which have been well-received by businesses navigating an already complex environment.

Programmes with Purpose also includes a comprehensive reference guide which shows how its findings align with existing policy and guidance.

David Whysall, Managing Director of UK Infrastructure, said:

"The strength of the UK’s pipeline for government-backed major projects creates a once in a generation opportunity to address regional inequalities and decarbonise our economy – not only in terms of what they achieve, but how they are brought forward. Whether working on transport programmes, defence capability, social infrastructure, technology or manufacturing, the delivery and execution needs to be world-leading.

The fact remains that as an industry we are not connected and not performing either consistently or frequently at this level.

Amazing expertise already exists within individual programmes and sectors, but we need to capture and scale it. We have also seen transformative steps taken through initiatives including the Construction Playbook, IPA Routemap, Value Toolkit and CO2nstructZero.

We now need the Government to show leadership through consolidating these achievements and acting on the recommendations in our report to establish a globally leading, exportable major projects industry.

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief Policy Director, said:

If levelling up and net zero are to become a reality, successfully delivering major projects right across the country must become the norm rather than the exception. A brief examination of the Government’s own statistics reveals the scope for significant improvements across all areas of delivery.

“Beefing up the role of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority will enable it to directly inject greater expertise into major projects, supporting both clients and suppliers. Elsewhere, churn of major project leaders in both the public and private sectors has dogged delivery for years, so we need to find a way to reduce the loss of institutional knowledge.

“And post-COP26, the need for action on carbon emissions in major projects could not be clearer. Ultimately, this report represents the business contribution to improving major project delivery. Getting this right can improve value for money for taxpayers and meaningfully contribute to government commitments on achieving net zero and levelling up communities.

Given the urgency of delivering transformational projects across the length and breadth of the country, there isn’t a moment to lose.

The report recommendations include:

  • Strengthened role for the Infrastructure & Projects Authority including publication of a ‘Major Projects Playbook’
  • Creation of specialist project teams to enhance delivery
  • Standard carbon emissions measurement across projects
  • Establishing export potential of innovation and expertise working through DIT
  • Incentivise longer tenures for senior civil servants and business leaders on major projects

Read the full report on the CBI website

For further information contact:

Ben Steele
Senior Communications Manager

t: +44 (0)20 7544 4553