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Centre for Digital Built Britain completed its five-year mission and closed its doors at the end of September 2022

This website remains as a legacy of the achievements of our five-year foundational journey towards a digital built Britain
Blog: Mark Enzer, Chair of the Digital Framework Task Group

Government confirmation that the Centre for Digital Built Britain will form a Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG) to guide the development and adoption of a digital framework for infrastructure data is good news. Mark Enzer, Chief Technical Officer for Mott MacDonald, and Chair of the DFTG, sets out a view of the way forward for Digital Transformation in the UK’s infrastructure industry.

The digital revolution is happening whether we are ready or not.  The unit cost of everything to do with data – collecting, storing, processing and transmitting it – has fallen exponentially and this is driving digital transformation across all industries.  But, if we embrace this change and coordinate the transformation, we can maximise the opportunity that it brings throughout the built environment.

Strong alignment is evident across a number of recent Government reports for the infrastructure and construction industry. The overarching Industrial Strategy (November 2017) sets the tone for our industry and outlines the direction of travel. Transforming Infrastructure Performance (December 2017) by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority is a ground-breaking report for our sector; it is the first of its kind to be so clear on the importance of the UK’s existing infrastructure in the overall view of ‘infrastructure performance’. 

The National Infrastructure Commission’s Data for the Public Good (December 2017) is visionary. It takes a long-term view and recommends that we move towards developing a National Digital Twin – a federation of digital models that will enable better decision-making in the delivery, operation, maintenance and use of infrastructure.  The National Digital Twin will be built on data, so first we need to create an information management framework that will be the foundation for the twins. If we get this framework right, and enable secure interoperability across the various sectors of economic infrastructure, we will by that act get much of the National Digital Twin.

The Government’s decision to support the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendations is a key step in the digital transformation of the infrastructure and construction sectors.  CDBB’s Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG) is an important part of this and, as the Chair of this task group, I very much look forward to collaborating broadly across the industry as we develop the underlying Information Management Framework for the built environment.

The construction industry has traditionally focused on new infrastructure, aiming to drive up the performance in delivery.  However, our existing infrastructure already provides us with about 99.5% of the infrastructure that our country needs and each year we add about 0.5% to that. Therefore, turning our focus to improving the performance of all infrastructure, existing and new, promises the best outcome for the ultimate customers.  This is why we need to apply digital transformation to all infrastructure – new and existing – giving us ‘digital delivery’ and ‘smart infrastructure’.  And we need to be strategic about it.

We need to recognise that infrastructure is an information-based industry, in which better decisions, based on better data, lead to better outcomes for the ultimate customers – our citizens. This ‘information value chain’ demonstrates a direct connection between data and outcomes and provides the essential value proposition for digital transformation.

So, we need to start treating information as an asset and begin managing and valuing ‘digital twins’ accordingly. We also need to put coherent digital transformation strategies in place to release the value of information in the delivery, operation, maintenance and use of infrastructure.

Many industry organisations across the sector already recognise the importance of digital transformation and are taking coordinated steps to change.  The Infrastructure Client Group (ICG), which represents the largest body of infrastructure clients in the UK, is providing important leadership in this area.  As part of this, the ICG has created a Digital Transformation Task Group, made up of representatives from all ICG organisations, which will work with the DFTG and lead on the development and implementation of digital transformation strategies.

In these strategies, the vision for digital built Britain as championed by CDBB, helps to inform the industry destination.  And the just-published ‘Ripe for transformation, ready for change?’ report helps to define the starting point.  Sponsored by the Infrastructure Client Group (ICG) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), this report establishes a baseline for the industry and highlights that coordinated, collaborative action is required by all asset owners and their supply chain partners to deliver on the promise of digital transformation.

None of this will happen overnight, but digital transformation will come. We need to make it work together.