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How (not) to sell infrastructure projects

What do we mean by Infrastructure?

Infrastructure – roads, rail, sewerage, airports are often big projects which offer benefits for future generations.  But infrastructure projects also often have big implications – including big disruption for the residents who have to contend with the traffic diversions, noise and change.

OK, give me some examples…

Red Potato have been involved in the project specification for minor road changes which will offer business benefits to those most disrupted.  The projects will help make it easier for businesses to get to, and from a business park.  Why is this important?  Because it directly effects business performance.  For instance, the ability to attract high quality employees.  If potential employees are faced with choosing to sit in traffic for upwards of an hour to travel a couple of miles or take a job somewhere else; it is an easy choice. Most employees want quality of life, to be home in time to go the gym or read the bedtime story.  Not be sitting in a traffic jam.   So infrastructure projects are important and can deliver real benefits.

So what needs to change?

If infrastructure is so important, why are we so bad at demonstrating the benefits?  Too often projects are into the mechanics of delivery and they loose focus on what problems they are seeking to solve.  So here is the plea…keep the focus on the what drives the project.  Without this focus we loose sight of the project objectives and ultimately that infrastructure, roads, rail, airports must be able to show clear benefits.  And those benefits should include how communities improve not just some Treasury statistics.


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Don’t miss the HS2 train! SMEs need to get on board

Our journey with HS2 begins

The HS2 train hasn’t yet arrived for passengers, but for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), it is already time to get on board.   OK, enough of the puns, but you get the point.  For SMEs to benefit from large scale infrastructure opportunities the time to get involved is at the early stages of design and development.  But, for SMEs to win a seat at the table, SMEs have been told that they will have raise their standards.  This blog post looks at one area that HS2 have emphasised in their supplier briefings.

In July, the winners of the major construction contracts for Britain’s new railway were announced  (17 July 2017).  The government has said that the £6.6 billion contracts will be supporting 16,000 jobs across the country.   Crucially about 60% of opportunities are aimed at SMEs

How will local communities benefit through employment and contracts from this kind of opportunity?  This is an important question because major infrastructure improvements have their own momentum.  For small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) it is not always obvious how they can become involved in these opportunities.  Supplier Roadshows can help, but they are only the first step.  For instance, EDI (Equality, Inclusion and Diversity) is critical to the success of HS2; but how many SMEs are able to meet the standards set by HS2?  And what has EDI got to do with fast trains?

Well, the answer lies in the vision for HS2.  The HS2 vision is to be a “Catalyst for growth across Britain”, and that involves more than fast trains.  To attract new people to the sector, requires a commitment from the supply chain. Perhaps most importantly it will require suppliers to move beyond a “tick-box” exercise.  Suppliers need to start to exercise leadership in their sector.  The ability to evidence real outcomes and impact will be key.  Let’s see if EDI really can the difference for SMEs.

Over the next few months you will be able to follow our journey as Red Potato attempts to become a supplier to HS2. We hope you enjoy the ride!