Yesterday saw Pinsent Masons, in association with the ICE and techUK, launch a new thought leadership report looking at global perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of infratech.
Technology and data are increasingly taking centre stage and driving infrastructure projects. This report shines a spotlight on how industry is preparing for the future. Including a look not just at how the infrastructure sector is responding to the new risks and possibilities of digital; but also, how the technology sector is preparing for new partnerships with an industry that operates to very different demand and expectations.
You don’t have to look to far to see how growing convergence between infrastructure and technology companies is driving better outcomes and benefits for owners, operators and users. Technology trends are shaping the future direction of infrastructure. There is no doubt that wireless networks (including mobile, IoT, small cells and mesh networks) will form the bedrock of projects going forward with 80% agreeing that wireless tech will be increasingly embedded in projects over the next three years. Furthermore, 97% highlighted how technology is now a deciding factor in new projects. With the quality of technology and the level of its integration being decisive, particularly for investors in greenfield and brownfield projects.
The infratech era is spurring a growth in collaboration with both infrastructure (76%) and technology (71%) companies expecting their engagement to increase over the coming years.
Infrastructure and technology firms come from two different worlds however the report shows that infrastructure firms are adopting an open-minded approach to technology engagement. Looking at how they can benefit from joint ventures (53%), private-public partnerships (53%) or from the creation of an in-house tech unit or subsidiary (43%) in the next three years.
Despite an openness to collaboration there remain several areas of uncertainty. One area which is of particular concern is data. 38% of technology respondents and 34% of infrastructure respondents identified agreeing data requirements or standards in smart infrastructure projects as a challenge. Other areas of friction include risk allocation and culture.
That said over 2/3 of companies surveyed described their experience of working with their infrastructure and technology counterparts as positive.
Turning to the major barriers to smart infrastructure the report saw industry cite unsuitable regulatory frameworks (38%), siloed approach to infrastructure and technology (37%); and concerns about security (physical, cyber/digital, data) (32%) as top issues.
Already we are seeing government and industry working to resolve these. Yet, much more work is needed to understand the nuances of these challenges in an ever-evolving environment. Taking account of the experience of other sectors as they have gone through this transition will be the key to success.
The report sends a very clear message that technology is no longer a bolt-on, or an afterthought, for infrastructure projects. The infrastructure industry is open to change but to realise the true value of this evolution we need further integration. Realising a smarter infrastructure future relies on all parties working together to break down silos and challenge traditional ways of doing things. Something techUK is committed to working with members and stakeholders across multiple sectors to achieve.