26 FEB 2020


More than 25 consultancy industry leaders have written to construction minister Nadhim Zahawi outlining their support for establishing a groundbreaking £225m five-year programme to transform the sector and the impact it has on the built environment through harnessing the digital revolution.   

In a letter co-signed by the leaders of some of the most prominent consultancy and engineering firms in the UK including AECOM, Arup, Atkins, WSP and Mace, the industry has made clear its commitment to the establishment of the Consultancy Sector Futures Institute, and is asking the government to demonstrate its own commitment with an announcement at the upcoming budget.

Modelled on the UK’s Catapults present in other sectors, the institute will be co-developed by ACE members working with academic partners including Loughborough University in the Midlands and the University of Salford in the north west to oversee an industry-wide change programme for consultancy businesses based on research from the Association of Consultancy and Engineering’s (ACE) Future of Consultancy campaign.

Working with industry, clients and academia, the institute will focus on developing the future skills and sustainable consultancy business models that will drive the industry forward. In addition, it will harness the power of emerging technology and open data to facilitate industry-wide collaboration for a more productive construction sector and society. 

This will be achieved by working with clients on demonstrator projects to showcase different ways of working using new technology, digital solutions and data in decision making and design to help the sector meet society's changing needs.

Hannah Vickers, chief executive of ACE, said: “With our industry on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, the institute will help every consultancy transition successfully – from the largest global firms to the most specialist SMEs. This programme will build on our current position as world leaders and set a new global standard for consultancy and engineering in the built environment.

“For government, our enhanced capability will mean progress on some of the most difficult questions society faces. For example, using design to tackle the underlying factors contributing to complex social deprivation, low regional growth and delivering a net zero society.”

Commenting on the proposal, Paul Reilly, chair of ACE and managing director, Stantec - Infrastructure and Buildings, said: “As an industry we share a passion for wanting to create great places for people, connect them together and build sustainable communities. This coming together of the industry to support long-term objectives in skills and innovation, overcoming our natural competitive tendencies, shows the strength of belief we collectively have in the ambitions of this programme. There are great benefits to delivering a better built environment for our clients and for wider society.”

Current proposals are for the institute’s core-funding to be split three ways between BEIS, Innovate UK and the industry. 

A full list of the 28 industry co-signatories to the letter to the construction minister is below:

  • Hannah Vickers, chief executive, Association for Consultancy and Engineering
  • David Barwell, UK&I chief executive, AECOM
  • Mark Cowlard, chief executive, Arcadis UK & Ireland
  • Geoff Hunt, director and chief operating officer, Arup
  • Richard Robinson, chief executive, Atkins
  • Sarah Prichard, UK managing director, BuroHappold
  • Dave Spencer, managing director, Capita Real Estate and Infrastructure
  • Mark Farmer, chief executive, Cast Consultancy and government MMC champion
  • Keith Waller, programme director, Construction Innovation Hub
  • Alasdair Reisner, chief executive, Civil Engineering Contractors Association
  • Steven Hale, director, Crofton Consulting
  • Thomas Neeson, managing partner, Cundall
  • Rob Melling, chief executive, Curtins
  • Simon D Innes, managing director, Goodson Associates
  • Mark Arthur, MEP director, HDR | Hurley Palmer Flatt Group
  • Mark Reynolds, Mace and Construction Leadership Council member
  • Chris Dulake, global railway and transit leader, Mott MacDonald
  • Mathew Riley, managing director, Ramboll UK
  • Ann Bentley, global board director, Rider Levett Bucknall and Construction Leadership Council member
  • Craig Huntbach, global director – maritime and aviation, Royal HaskoningDHV
  • Nick Smith, director, Siemens.
  • Andy Mitchell, chief executive officer, Tideway and Construction Leadership Council chair
  • Chris Young, executive managing director, Tony Gee
  • Nick Taylor, chief executive, Waterman
  • Mark Naysmith, UK chief executive, WSP in the UK

In addition, the letter was also co-signed by the following academic project partners:

  • Robert Allison, vice-chancellor, Loughborough University
  • Joanne Purves, pro vice-chancellor – International and Regional Partnerships, University of Salford
  • Professor Michael Arthur, president and provost, University College London

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