Perspectives

The $1tn question: Can UK firms dominate aviation?

You wouldn’t know it from the way we talk about our roads and our trains, but Britain is a global leader in infrastructure delivery. Mace's Chief Executive Mark Reynolds explores what that could mean for the British economy post-Brexit.

Our project and programme delivery is the envy of the world, and companies like Mace are already working in a huge number of countries to help governments and private developers alike deliver vast infrastructure investments.

In aviation, in particular, the UK has a fantastic pedigree of designing and delivering complex infrastructure developments that have revolutionised international air travel.

Our own infrastructure – despite the political arguments over expanding capacity in London – hugely outclasses our European and international rivals.

More than 270m passengers travelled through UK airports last year, in a country of 68m people. If you combine all of London’s airports, it is the busiest city airport system on earth, and Heathrow Airport by itself – an organisation leading the way in how it procures and delivers new capacity – is the seventh busiest overall by passenger volume.

British engineering, architecture and project management is second to none, and we’re recognised as a country that has, by and large, developed our aviation infrastructure effectively to help support our economic growth.

From Hong Kong, Mexico, New York and Amsterdam to Auckland, Singapore, Dubai and Taiwan, cities all over the world have taken advantage of the expertise developed in the UK to build and expand their airports.

Post-Brexit potential

As we get closer and closer to Brexit, it’s more important than ever that Britain’s businesses are match-fit and ready to take advantage of the new global trade opportunities that will present themselves.

Aviation infrastructure is a great example of a high-quality British export that hasn’t had the attention it deserved but has real potential to deliver sustainable economic growth to the UK post-Brexit.

Our construction sector exported more than £8bn in products and services last year. The global airport development market – with nearly $1tn of new airports and expansions currently in the pipeline – offers a chance to substantially increase that value.

Whitehall backing

The government has recognised this, and begun to throw its support behind the UK’s infrastructure export industry in earnest. Through the industrial strategy and the construction sector deal, it is providing easily accessible funding to help ensure British infrastructure delivery is able to keep innovating and delivering new products and services ahead of the international market.

Infrastructure Exports: UK, a government and industry joint working body announced in 2017, is helping to identify opportunities across the globe for UK companies to work together to form joint ventures and win contracts on some of the world’s largest infrastructure programmes.

Finally, UK Export Finance – the division of the Treasury that provides development funding for projects with UK involvement – has extended its credit line to £40bn and is actively seeking investment opportunities to support the appointment of British companies to global projects.

Those three initiatives combined will make it easier than ever for the UK’s homegrown infrastructure experts to sell their products and services overseas.

It is no longer a question of whether we can build this market; it’s a question of how ambitious we can be, and whether we have the capacity and the courage to take advantage of the huge opportunities that will emerge.

This article was originally published by Construction News

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Mark Reynolds, Chief Executive

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