One of the privileges of working for ACE is to be able to see the broader picture. Away from the day-to-day commercial pressures of practice, one can appreciate the many different factors that affect the way our industry works.
Being able to navigate these complex interactions is a critical role for ACE, both for representation and to create business opportunities for the industry.
That is why I am pleased that ACE is building a reputation for depth of knowledge about project finance and public-private partnerships. Our recent reports on public-private finance models and the lessons learned from PFI have opened doors for ACE among clients, central government and the finance world.
Along with ensuring that we drive the news and political agendas on infrastructure investment, a key outcome of all of this effort is to build trust in, and respect for, ACE. This creates opportunities to represent ACE members’ views to the crucial decision-makers who decide when and where work takes place.
Some of those that ACE seeks to influence came into direct contact with ACE member firms’ views at our annual conference in May. There was a record turnout and we were left with standing room only as people sought to put questions to the Business Secretary, Vince Cable and Deputy American Ambassador; Barbara Stephenson.
Mark Bew, the head of the government’s BIM taskforce, joined a panel on the opportunities this new technology presents. Alan Couzens of Infrastructure UK also spoke about the National Infrastructure Plan. Other major industry leaders such as, Terry Morgan; Chairman of Cross Rail, Keith Howells; Chairman of Mott MacDonald & Vice Chairman of ACE, Philip Dilley; Chairman of ARUP and London First also provided their contribution to the debate on how effective to source investment for major infrastructure project as a platform to revitalise the UK economy. With trade press and national press asking for information and interviews throughout the day, it was very pleasing to see how highly our industry’s expertise and work is valued across the political and media agenda.
In order to capitalise on that growing interest in our work, ACE must always strive to be better connected across the industry.
We have a completely new regional team in place, including a new regional manager at ACE headquarters. For the first time, we have also appointed regional officers to work directly with member companies in their areas.
But that is just the start. To make our work on your behalf a success, we need the input of industry. We need detailed information about what you are experiencing in practice. All of this is valuable evidence that we can use to make a strong case for our industry with governments and clients.
That is why we will continue to invest in our channels of engagement. Whether it is an investment-focused roundtable meeting in Westminster, a Sector Interest Group meeting in Yorkshire, a delegation to a client organisation in Scotland, or a reception in Belfast – all of this helps to take our industry’s message to decision-makers.
Clients come to round-table meetings organised by ACE safe in the knowledge that they can talk openly about their challenges without prejudice. They know that engaging with ACE adds value. If you are at the table, you can benefit from that too.
The value of business networking can be significant, and ACE is your network.
So if you have not logged on to our website recently, or if you have not looked in to joining a Sector Interest Group or Regional Group, then I would strongly urge you to do so. Who knows where it may lead?
Finally, the UK engineering and consultancy sector should be very proud of its contributions to the development and successful execution of the £8 billion 2012 Olympic facilities. Against the background of the disappointment with the delivery of the Wembley Stadium, the industry has rally together, under the leadership of the ODA Chairman; Sir John Armitt, and completed on time and to budget the various facilities required. Congratulations to all ACE member firms who have contributed to the successful delivery of these facilities and showcase the UK at its best on project execution. Not only will the London 2012 Olympic be a spectacular event, the track record, experiences and credibility of the UK engineering firms on the delivery of these projects should pave the way for major export of the UK professional consultancy and engineering industry on similar projects around the world, and we must leverage on this opportunities.