17 NOV 2021


Strengthening the role of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) to improve major project delivery can help the government’s net zero and levelling up agendas, according to a new report from the CBI and Turner & Townsend. 

Programmes with Purpose: delivering success in Government’s major projects sets out a series of recommendations to improve the delivery of the government’s major projects portfolio (GMPP) across a range of critical sectors including transport, utilities and defence. Expenditure across the GMPP stood at £524bn according to the latest figures, but with almost three quarters (135/184) of major projects currently falling behind expectations to deliver their objectives on time and on budget.  

A key recommendation is for the IPA to work with the Cabinet Office to publish a Major Projects Playbook, setting out expectations and best practice on project delivering social value, meeting carbon commitments and embedding export potential as a key benchmark of project success.  The objective behind the playbook should be to break down siloes that exist between different areas of sector specialism, helping to establish a connected major projects ‘industry’.

The report includes 13 case studies examining the positive ripple effects of successful major projects, from exporting expertise in defence through the Type 31 Frigate programme, to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs across the country via HS2. Other examples of best practice show success rests upon companies working collaboratively to deliver against ambitious targets, including on National Highways’ A14 project and the development of new nuclear power capacity at Sizewell C. 

It also recommends transferring oversight of the National Infrastructure Pipeline to the UK Infrastructure Bank, simplifying decision-making and prioritisation. To strengthen governance and accountability, the IPA and Cabinet Office, with insights from leading private sector partners, should explore what incentives could help reduce churn among people leading major projects, defined as senior responsible owners. The report also proposes a Project Support and Delivery Unit is established within the IPA to provide advice and support to major projects.

The research has been developed with insight from industry and builds on the publication of the Outsourcing and Construction Playbooks and updates to its Project Routemap, which have been well-received by businesses navigating an already complex environment. 

Programmes with Purpose also includes a comprehensive reference guide which shows how its findings align with existing policy and guidance.  

Matthew Fell, CBI chief policy director, said: “If levelling up and net zero are to become a reality, successfully delivering major projects right across the country must become the norm rather than the exception. A brief examination of the government’s own statistics reveals the scope for significant improvements across all areas of delivery. Beefing up the role of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority will enable it to directly inject greater expertise into major projects, supporting both clients and suppliers.”

David Whysall, managing director of UK infrastructure at Turner & Townsend, said: “The strength of the UK’s pipeline for government-backed major projects creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address regional inequalities and decarbonise our economy – not only in terms of what they achieve, but how they are brought forward. Whether working on transport programmes, defence capability, social infrastructure, technology or manufacturing, our delivery and execution needs to be world leading.   

“We wanted to get the industry talking and collaborating about how we pull together major project learning to deliver brilliant projects. If we can keep learning together, we can really excel as a UK and there’s a massive export potential in that too. The report highlights some of the great work that has already been done but there is more to do too. We’re excited to launch the report and look forward to greater collaboration and discussion over the coming months.

“We have also seen transformative steps taken through initiatives including the Construction Playbook, IPA Routemap, Value Toolkit and CO2nstructZero.  We now need the government to show leadership through consolidating these achievements and acting on the recommendations in our report to establish a globally leading, exportable major projects industry.

Click here to download the report, Programmes with Purpose: delivering success in Government’s major projects.


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