Hinkley Point C, High Speed 2, the Heathrow expansion project – these are some of the UK’s biggest and most high-profile infrastructure projects designed to address complex economic and societal issues, such as the provision of clean energy and the development of efficient transportation systems.
The real value of these projects, however, goes beyond the core objective of building an infrastructure, for it lies in their ability to address broader social and economic challenges: revitalising regions, sectors and workforces, and bringing prosperity to less developed areas.
Hinkley Point C (HPC), in addition to designing and delivering a nuclear power plant to provide low carbon electricity to over 6 million homes in the UK, is leaving a legacy of collaboration and capability development in the UK. Towards this end, HPC entered into a collaboration with the University of Bath, School of Management, leading to the creation of a world-class research centre, HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab, to advance practice, policy and science around the management of complex supply chains in these projects.
Developing the capabilities of SMEs
A key focus of HPC has been to enhance prosperity in the South West of England by developing capabilities in the region. HPC has invested over £1.5 billion in the South West. Furthermore, a large percentage of contracts, amounting to about £980 million, has been awarded to businesses in the region.
HPC has invested over £1.5 billion in the South West.
Most of these businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who have not delivered on large-scale projects before. Putting their money where their mouth is, instead of working with established multinational corporations (MNCs), HPC invested resources and time in developing the capabilities of these SMEs.
Examples of these efforts include making a financial investment, helping SMEs to secure loans, and training them on understanding complex construction and engineering contracts. HPC has also played an active role in ensuring that SMEs bundle their resources and specific capabilities in consortia to deliver products and services to the project. Some of HPC’s employees have been seconded to these SMEs to help them cater to the scale of HPC’s requirements.
An alliance of organisations
HPC also intends to leave a legacy of industrial collaboration for the UK’s future large-scale projects. To achieve this, HPC is working with some of UK’s most prominent contractors across civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering to develop an alliance of organisations, where the partners work in collaboration to deliver their respective modules. HPC actively orchestrates collaboration between these organisations to ensure that they work jointly together to deliver core parts of the nuclear power plant. Companies such as HPC can act as an orchestrator of a wider network of firms to ensure positive outcomes. Building collaboration across industries may also help to tackle occurring challenges together and learn from and with each other for the benefits of these large-scale projects and the UK economy as a whole.
Addressing the skills challenge
Large-scale projects can be a catalyst in addressing skills shortage. HPC is particularly invested in addressing the skills challenge faced by the South West of the UK.
Two award-winning teaching cases were developed to bring to life key challenges faced by project leaders for students.
It is working closely with future leaders through its apprenticeship and student placement programmes as well as sponsoring research projects across postgraduate and doctoral programmes. This ensures not only a great opportunity for apprentices and students to experience life as a project and supply chain manager, but also to develop key skills and capabilities needed for future leaders.
As part of the work conducted by the University of Bath’s HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab, two award-winning teaching cases were developed to bring to life key challenges faced by project leaders for students. Both teaching cases, which are taught at universities around the world, offer real-life insights for students to learn about key challenges in large-scale projects.
Exploring the key challenges and benefits of orchestrating industry collaboration
HPC and other major infrastructure projects such as HS2, Heathrow Expansion programme and Thames Tideway joined business leaders, policymakers and leading academics to explore the key challenges and benefits of orchestrating industry collaboration at an event organised by the University of Bath. The event was part of a series that focuses on the interaction between business, government, and academia to address significant social and economic challenges facing the society today and offered opportunities to learn about some of the critical issues confronting large-scale UK projects. Some of the challenges identified included uncertainty brought on by broader political pressures, the capabilities and skills gap in the UK, and the gradual decline of trust in some industries such as construction.
The event hosted over 140 participants from public and private sectors and academic institutions and figured panellists from the Home Office, IPA (Infrastructure and Projects Authority), BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Hinkley Point C, Heathrow Airport Expansion Programme, Thames Tideway Tunnel, and High Speed 2 (HS2).
In sum, in the face of a wide variety of challenges facing large-scale projects, inevitable to be complicated by Brexit, collaboration between businesses (and government as well as academia) is going to be paramount to delivering these projects.
A holistic approach adopted by HPC, bringing together regional, national, and global businesses, as well as universities and key stakeholders in the wider community, serves as an example of how project leaders need to think about not only their outcome (i.e. delivering the project), but also a diverse network of stakeholders.
By Professor Veronica Hope Hailey (School of Management, University of Bath), Dr Jas Kalra (HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab, School of Management, University of Bath), Dr Mehrnoush Sarafan (HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab, School of Management, University of Bath; Judge Business School, University of Cambridge), Professor Jens Roehrich (HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab, School of Management, University of Bath)