Infrastructure summit highlights opportunities for UK firms

Wednesday, 17 October 2012 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The UK Trade and Investment Infrastructure Summit held at Lancaster House brought together business leaders from across the world to debate emerging trends, examine best practice and identify opportunities across infrastructure sectors – construction, water, airports and rail. The Infrastructure Day was one of 18 global business summits organised by UK Trade & Investment in the course of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The sessions focused on large scale urban regeneration projects, looking at sustainability in design, operation and equipment provision, and high-value opportunities in high-growth markets. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This is an exciting time for the UK infrastructure sector – companies are winning contracts across the world as British skills and expertise are becoming a trademark of the industry’s excellence and quality. Our construction sector is one of the world’s biggest and best which means UK-based companies are ideally placed to build on these excellent opportunities.”

Secretary of State for the Environment Caroline Spelman addressed the conference on the topic of water infrastructure while mentioning that “London’s Olympic Park is a clear example of British ingenuity, where rainwater harvesting capabilities, the wastewater treatment plant and water efficient fixtures and fittings reduce the Park’s dependence on potable water by 65%. British firms can offer our expertise, ingenuity and insight to help all nations address this most pressing of problems facing the world’s population.” This was followed by a series of discussions on global water opportunities.

Several companies chose to profile their international business success at the Infrastructure Day. Mott MacDonald, a global management, engineering and development consultancy, has announced it has been appointed by the Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company to provide contract administration and site overview services for the development of one of the world’s largest underground pumping stations. The project will involve a capital expenditure of $360 million while creating new and safeguarding existing jobs in the UK.

Atkins, one of the world’s leading engineering and design consultancies announced a series of large international contracts, as well as the opening of an office in Malaysia. A major UK-based, international practice of architects, designers, engineers and urbanists – BDP, also announced that it has won a series of international contracts.

British standards and codes are recognised globally and form the basis of governance in many construction industries. The UK has developed particular capabilities in urban regeneration, as a result of the recent transformation of cities such as London, Manchester and Newcastle. This expertise is now being exported globally. UK contractors and consultants operate within leading consortia in almost every country in the world including Sri Lanka, providing the necessary design, project management and quality expertise to deliver major projects.

Since venturing into Sri Lanka in 2003, UK’s Mabey Bridge in partnership with Access Engineering has to date supplied 196 bridges and flyovers to the country, including the Sangupiddy Bridge – a road bridge across the Jaffna Lagoon – which reduces the journey from southern Sri Lanka to Jaffna by 110 km or three hours. In July this year the Government of Sri Lanka, HSBC and UK’s Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) signed a loan agreement facility for the supply of 210 rural bridges by Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd. The project, worth US$ 56million, aims to improve the rural roads network and to link rural communities with mainstream economic development.

One of Scott Wilson Group PLC’s high profile contracts, which began in the first half of 2008 and is nearing completion, is their work on the Colombo port expansion project. Being a global integrated design and engineering consultancy for the built and natural environments headquartered in the UK, their harbour infrastructure work related to the Colombo port expansion project includes construction of breakwaters, dredging for a new harbour basin and navigation channel and rerouting of crude oil pipeline.  The UK has one of the most diverse private sector port industries in the world. It has over 100 sea ports, ranging from major container and passenger terminals, to fishing ports, oil and gas terminals and marinas. UK exports cover port management, logistics and design consultancy, with particular expertise in security. In the rail sector, UK firms are recognised internationally for their expertise in railway restructuring and public private partnerships (PPP). In particular, they have a lot to contribute in markets with significant project business or those that are undergoing active reform.

The UK operates the largest air transport system in Europe, achieves more revenue per passenger than any other country and boasts innovative, world-class talent in design, project management, construction, security operations and maintenance. UK expertise is at the heart of the world’s most prestigious and challenging airport projects. UK companies have recently worked on the design and construction of airports such as Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Beijing Terminal 3.

Last year the Government of Sri Lanka awarded two major contracts to Systems Interface Ltd., based in Surrey UK. Together with their local partner Queens Group, Systems Interface will deliver one contract for the supply and installation of an ILS (Instrument Landing System) and a DME (Distance Measuring System) at Bandaranaike International Airport, and the second contract for the same two systems as well as a Middle Marker (MM) and a Doppler VHF Omnidirectional Range (DVOR) for the soon to be completed Hambantota International Airport.

UK water companies have international experience in working with governments to deliver highly-efficient and environmentally-sustainable water and wastewater systems. Its advanced engineering capability is being increasingly harnessed to find solutions to the ever-growing and constantly-changing demands of the global water and environment sector. The industry is backed by academics from the UK’s world-leading universities, which also boast sophisticated laboratory and test facilities, and highly-specialised engineers and technicians.

In 2011, British expertise was instrumental in the delivery of the Government of Sri Lanka’s Negombo Water Supply and Optimisation Project. From the Company’s formation in 1968, UK’s Biwater has worked in 90 countries worldwide designing, building, operating and maintaining water companies, water supplies, effluent treatment and desalination plants. The scope of the Negombo project included design, construction and commissioning of a water treatment plant, two water storage reservoirs, pumping station upgrades and 217 km of transmission and distribution mains.

These are few examples of the links between UK and Sri Lanka in the infrastructure sector. With the increase of construction and development activity in the country, many local companies continue to draw on British expertise. The UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) section of the British High Commission in Colombo is looking to further explore opportunities for UK companies in Sri Lanka. In this light, while welcoming stories from Sri Lankan companies about their successful infrastructure related partnerships with British companies, UKTI is available to assist local companies to locate suitable UK expertise for specific upcoming infrastructure projects.