UCL: UCL partners with OECD to tackle global challenges through infrastructure delivery

As countries around the world work to tackle climate change and build back better post-pandemic, many are investing more heavily in implementing major projects to enable this work. The USA is one country investing heavily in infrastructure, with President Joe Biden predicting an ‘infrastructure decade’, after the House of Representatives approved the Build Back Better Act in November 2021.

Major countrywide infrastructure projects, often called ‘megaprojects’, require investment running into billions of pounds of public money every year. Many fail to deliver on their goals, due to the complex challenges such projects face, from people and project management to dealing with everyday difficulties and implementing effective financial management. A pre-pandemic example in the UK is Crossrail, which is over-budget and now scheduled to open in the first half of 2022, having been delayed since 2018.

Today’s biggest global crises, including climate change, Covid-19 recovery and ensuring that societies – particularly in the higher risk Global South – can become more resilient, depend on effective and resourceful infrastructure delivery.

Dr Denicol explained: “Infrastructure investment is critical for countries to tackle these global crises, boost economies and create social value. Key to the success of infrastructure provision is addressing the causes of poor delivery performance, as suggested by recent UCL award-winning research*. Through the partnership we will look at what makes a major infrastructure project successful and how this can translate to projects around the world.

“We are thrilled to be working with the OECD on cutting-edge scientific work to advance the delivery of infrastructure projects.”

The partnership also sees the launch of the UCL Megaproject Delivery Centre, providing support for research into management and leadership, as well as training opportunities for the next generation of infrastructure leaders.

The centre will build on UCL’s track record as a global leader in project management research and will provide the research foundation for the groundbreaking MBA in Major Infrastructure Delivery, which will start at UCL in 2023.

Dr Denicol continued: “We have a significant challenge ahead of us with infrastructure projects needed across the world, at scale. The emphasis on governance and procurement practices will provide evidence-based guidance to policymakers and inform strategic decisions of future infrastructure assets.”

Dejan Makovsek (Procurement Strategy Lead, OECD Infrastructure and Public Procurement Division) said: “As part of efforts to support OECD member countries in improving their infrastructure governance frameworks in line with the 2020 OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Infrastructure, the OECD rolled out the Support Tool for Effective Procurement Strategy (STEPS**). The innovative evidence-based tool helps build procurement strategies for major infrastructure and bespoke projects.

“Key procurement decisions such as the capabilities of the procuring organisation, the packaging problem and the delivery model choice are all still decided based on subjective experience or tautological tools. STEPS is the first tool that uses science to define a holistic procurement strategy.”

Professor D’Maris Coffman (Director, The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction) said: “This partnership will enable the School to work closely with the OECD to advance our shared agenda of promoting understanding of the need to ground major infrastructure delivery in rigorous science. Given the twin challenges of tackling the climate emergency while ensuring an inclusive recovery from the global Covid-19 pandemic, addressing unmet demand for physical and social infrastructure is the key to ensuring the safety and prosperity of our societies.”

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