10 Dec 2020
by Susanne Baker, techUK

National Infrastructure Strategy: tech sector highlights

National Infrastructure Strategy: tech sector highlights

The National Infrastructure Strategy, a 100-page report published on 25 November 2020 alongside the Chancellor’s Spending Review, signals an intent to “deliver an infrastructure revolution” tied to net zero.

It is the first ever strategy for the future of the UK’s infrastructure, outlining plans for the coming 30 years. Alongside the strategy, the Government also announced the creation of a new National Infrastructure Bank, replacing the role of the European Investment Bank in the UK, as well as a separate £4bn ‘levelling up’ fund which local authorities will be able to bid on to get investment for specific local or regional projects.

The lack of long-term planning by Government has been a persistent complaint. The constant stop-start funding of programmes has made it difficult to make long-term investment decisions, undermining supply chains, creating damaging skills gaps and holding back innovation.

Closely linked to the Government’s recent 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the Strategy acknowledges that infrastructure investment will be of paramount importance to deliver net zero by 2050. Investment commitments include:

1. Investment in offshore wind, including £160m for modern ports and the share of energy generated from renewable sources.

2. £525 million to bring forward large scale nuclear energy.

3. £1 billion to support the establishment of carbon capture and storage to capture 10 megatons of CO2 per year by 2030.

4. Investment in hydrogen production for heating seasonal storage for renewable power and transport, underpinned by a £240m hydrogen fund.

5. £1.3 billion in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles looking ahead to 2030.

6. Funding to enable heat decarbonisation and help plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year in the UK.

7. Ensuring that by the early 2030’s all 1.7m new heating systems are capable of being net zero.

8. Investing £5.2 billion by 2027 to counter the increased risk of flooding and coastal erosion resulting from climate change.

The commitments to a visible pipeline of infrastructure investment - £27bn will be spent in 2021/22 - and to increasing regulatory certainty is certainly welcomed. Over the next 12 months, other key documents expected to shed more light on key infrastructure policy include the Energy White Paper, the Union Connectivity Review, the Net Zero Strategy, Treasury’s Net Zero Review and a refreshed Industrial Strategy.

Digital innovation and technology – whilst not explicitly mentioned in this pipeline – will be critical in many, if not all, of these commitments. Our Smart Systems and Infrastructure Programme, previously known as SmarterUK, works closely with stakeholders (from innovation bodies, government, National Grid, DNOs and the energy sector to the Department of Transport, and the automotive sector, the Centre for Digital Built Britain and DCMS, among others) to ensure digital innovation is baked into infrastructure planning, regulatory frameworks and market engagement.

Other key takeaways for the tech sector:

· £5 billion to support UK-wide gigabit broadband roll-out, a Shared Rural Network extending 4G mobile coverage to 95% of the UK, and £250 million to ensure resilient and secure digital networks.

· Continued support for the UK’s National Digital Twin programme and the development of an Information Management Framework for the UK’s infrastructure and built environment (p.89) Read our deep dive here.

· Some discussion of using digital innovation, collaboration and working practices to promote interdepartmental collaboration and accelerate decision-making (p.84);

· Further work on a freight mapping tool to enable the UK’s freight networks to meet growing demands for faster deliveries while reducing its impact on congestion and the environment. The discovery phase of this project will conclude in December, with further work planned for 2021 (p.58). · The Commissioning the NIC to study GHG removal tech (p.8) The terms of reference are available here.

· A general theme on data-driven decision making.

To find out more about techUK’s Smart Systems and Infrastructure Programme, and it’s groups focused on energy, water, mobility, cities and digital twins, please contact [email protected], [email protected]g or [email protected]

Authors

Susanne Baker, techUK

Susanne Baker, techUK