Ward’s Words: Supporting the Northern Powerhouse

Constructing Excellence

For the last six months Constructing Excellence has been the fortunate beneficiary of a Simon Industrial Fellowship from the University of Manchester, to enable me to work with Professor Graham Winch of the Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS). Along with his colleague Nuno Gil, Graham will be well known to many of our members. I have met with the CEOs or other C-suite business leaders of major infrastructure players in the north-west, with a particular focus on the Northern Powerhouse (yes I know it covers more than just the north-west). I am grateful to Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Transport for Greater Manchester, Greater Manchester LEP, Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Transport for the North, Electricity North West, United Utilities, Halton Borough Council/Mersey Gateway, Sellafield, BT OpenReach, National Grid, Network Rail, Highways England, Infrastructure and Projects Authority, Crossrail (I know…!) for their support. This is a network which we plan to grow with AMBS under the brand of ‘Infrastructure @ Manchester’.

Thanks to Turner and Townsend we were able to mark the end of this Fellowship with a roundtable dinner discussion in Manchester in May, which we hope to repeat in Leeds soon. We will publish our learnings in the near future, for example they include:

  • the Politics of infrastructure including influencing the new metro mayors to collaborate,
  • the ‘environment’ more generally in which infrastructure is delivered and operated,
  • a better narrative for policy-makers on the socio-economic outcomes,
  • a positive story for investors from home (eg pension funds) or abroad that infrastructure in the north is a great investment,
  • developing the right skills, especially amongst a northern ‘cohort’ that should not have to relocate outside the region to find satisfying work in our sector.

I thank the Simon family for their support, which has enabled us to create the foundation for an on-going network of senior infrastructure leaders who recognise the value of collaborating for the greater good of the north, which in effect will be a new theme group for Constructing Excellence with AMBS focused on the infrastructure sector in the north.