Flexible financing urged for infrastructure

Local and combined authorities and sub-national transport bodies should have access to more flexible financing options for infrastructure development according to a new report.

The document – published jointly by the UK engineering profession – forms the industry’s collective response to the Government's green paper on Industrial Strategy.

It points out that funding for infrastructure at a local and regional level is expected to remain constrained in the near to medium term. Furthermore respondents to a survey conducted for the report by the Royal Academy of Engineering identify inadequate road and rail infrastructure as the biggest constraints to economic growth. 

As a result the report recommends that new financing streams will be required to deliver growth through infrastructure including municipal and green bonds, ‘earn back’ and non profit distributing programmes. This, it says, will help give a clear, long term outlook to potential investors and reduce the industry’s cyclical fluctuations.

The report also calls for regional infrastructure strategies to be developed across the country and says it is vital that the long term approach in the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan is continued after the UK leaves the EU.

The report also focuses on measures to support innovation and proposes development of a UK wide network of ‘national innovation assets’ to provide real world test beds for new technologies and developing specialist skills. This, it says, could help to extend the geographical reach of innovation activities beyond the current centres of excellence. 

“There is a compelling case for continued investment in our research base as a means of fuelling future prosperity, but we must also focus on supporting the innovation process if we are to reap the full benefit from the research,” commented the Royal Academy of Engineering’s president Professor Dame Ann Dowling.

CIHT is one of the 38 professional engineering organisations represented by the new report. The Institution’s chief executive Sue Percy said: “The UK needs to take a coordinated approach to transport infrastructure to encourage innovation, deliver economic growth, social and environmental benefits. 

“As one of the pillars of the current Industrial Strategy we believe that the introduction of a National Transport Strategy is now more important than ever. We have seen a strategy introduced in Scotland and it has the advantage of improving the coordination of delivery at a national, regional and local level.”