How NEC users can continue to help transform infrastructure performance

How NEC users can continue to help transform infrastructure performance

First I would like to pay tribute to David Williams, the NEC Users’ Group’s first chair, who sadly passed away in April this year. David was group construction director for BAA plc, which trialled NEC’s first edition on a new terminal at Southampton Airport in 1993. That same year the company adopted it for the challenging Heathrow Express Rail Link, which was successfully delivered in 1998. David served as NEC Users’ Group chair from 1994 to 1997, a role I am proud to continue. My thoughts and best wishes are with his family.

It is fitting that NEC continues to strive for excellence and support implementation of the UK government’s infrastructure policies to transform infrastructure performance. The latest policy document is Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030 (IPA 2021a), which sets out a plan for implementing the government’s 2017 programme to improve infrastructure delivery and performance. The programme is led by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) and was co-developed with government, industry and academia. The NEC Users’ Group’s previous chair, David Hancock, frequently referred to it past issues of this newsletter.

Essential programme

Implementing the Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme is essential for the UK to deliver world-class infrastructure within the current project delivery context of skills shortages and low productivity.

Labour and skills shortages are worsening in construction, with CITB forecasting that construction output will grow at an average rate of 4.4% across 2021−2025, requiring an additional 217,000 workers. The industry has also seen little or negative growth in output per hour worked between 1997 and 2020, and gross value added increased by just 12% in the 22 years to 2019 compared with 53% for the whole economy.

The above supply-side constraints, combined with significant demand and the government’s long-term, interrelated and complex policy objectives – including net zero greenhouse gas emissions, renewing the natural environment and levelling up − require a paradigm shift in how government and industry intervene in the built environment. NEC users in the UK have a significant role to play.

Implementation roadmap

Published last September, the new implementation roadmap for Transforming Infrastructure Performance describes a future where the construction industry collectively prioritises societal outcomes and uses data, technology and improved delivery models to help achieve them through interventions in the built environment. This is summarised in a built environment model developed with industry, and brought to life in five key focus areas:

  • delivering new economic infrastructure to drive improved outcomes for people and nature
  • place-based regeneration and delivery
  • addressing the need for social infrastructure using a platform approach
  • retrofitting existing buildings to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
  • optimising the performance of our existing built environment.

By 2024, the roadmap aims for interventions in the built environment to consistently use trusted data, insights and emerging technologies to deliver better societal outcomes. It will ensure that projects are developed and delivered by people with the skills, expertise and capability to support high quality outcomes in a complex environment. The NEC contract suite and its UK users hold the key to unlocking this. 

How the programme is being used

The government is utilising the Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme in various ways. First, it provides a model for thinking about how to intervene in the built environment and is used to inform decisions about infrastructure investment across the full asset life cycle. Secondly, it is a change programme, with the IPA and partners delivering reforms and supporting projects to improve performance and outcomes. Thirdly, it is the basis for collaborating with industry and academia, helping them to align their organisational priorities and transformations with the vision described in the programme.

The programme and The Construction Playbook (HM Government, 2020) work in conjunction. The programme provides the model for thinking about interventions in the built environment within the context of transformational change and complex systems. The playbook sets out key policies and guidance for how public works projects and programmes are assessed, procured and delivered. So, while the programme gives a lens to look at how to intervene in the built environment, the playbook describes the way government engages with the market to deliver those interventions.

What NEC users can do

Transforming Infrastructure Performance is an ambitious, long-term change programme, meaning it will require a broad community of practitioners, professionals and wider stakeholders to make it a success. I call on all NEC users in the UK to play a leading role in this. You can do your part by understanding and sharing the programme’s themes, values, and models, and translating them into your context. Aligning your organisational strategies and plans to the programme’s agenda, whether by contributing to specific reforms or creatively thinking about new and better ways to deliver outcomes for people and nature, will help collectively to transform the performance of UK infrastructure.

It might mean hardwiring The Construction Playbook into your commercial models and contracts, making use of the Project/Programme Outcome Profile tool (IPA, 2021b) to focus on outcomes, or collaborating across organisational boundaries to deliver better outcomes and value. The programme vision can only be achieved through collaborative work – the government needs your help to make it happen.

If you have any questions, would like any more information or would like to discuss how best you can implement Transforming Infrastructure Performance, please contact me or the IPA stakeholder engagement lead at


HM Government (2020) The Construction Playbook: Government Guidance on sourcing and contracting public works projects and programmes,
IPA (2017) Transforming Infrastructure Performance,
IPA (2021a) Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030,
IPA (2021b) Project/Programme Outcome Profile tool,

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