UK Infrastructure sector predicts digitally driven Covid recovery

Research carried out by engineering consultancy Atkins suggests that 68 per cent of infrastructure businesses expect their outlooks to have recovered to pre-crisis levels within 18 months.

The work – which was carried out by the independent market research organisation Savanta ComRes on behalf of Atkins – also finds that the vast majority of leaders in the sector expect digital innovation to be at the heart of this recovery.

Covid recovery

Based on 398 responses from senior public and private sector decision makers the report, entitled Infrastructure Insights: COVID Impact and Recovery, found that while the industry has been impacted by the pandemic – with organisations reporting that 16 per cent of the work they had on immediately before Covid-19 had been postponed or cancelled completely – 52 per cent were confident that they would see outlooks for the sector return to pre-crisis levels by Q4 of 2021.

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In the private sector, almost 7 in 10 respondents predicted a return to their organisation’s pre-crisis outlook before the end of next year.

Amongst the different areas covered by the research, respondents from the utilities sector were most bullish about the prospects for the future, with 69 per cent expecting a return to pre-COVID business levels before the end of Q4 2021. Confidence levels appear to be at their lowest in the property sector, with just 47 per cent expecting a bounce-back over that time frame.

Across the board, there appear to be very low levels of enthusiasm for the effectiveness of the the government, with just 20 per cent of respondents expressing confidence in its plans for the sector.

The report also reveals that 65 per cent of senior decision makers would like to see government provide a clear roadmap to help the sector’s Covid recovery, while 53 per cent want to see increased spending beyond the 2020 budget commitments and 53 per cent called for better co-ordination between central and local government.

There is general agreement that the sector will not emerge from the crisis in the same form, with the vast majority of respondents agreeing that digital innovation will be increasingly important. It is also clear that senior decision makers want to see digital innovations from the design, engineering and consultancy sector to help support their organisations during the Covid-19 crisis and recovery.

Atkins UK&E CEO Richard Robinson, said: “The findings set out in this report represent a compelling and powerful take on the sector and its path forward. While it’s clear that we need a finalised National Infrastructure Strategy to give us more clarity and confidence, there’s an expectation for the private sector to step up the use of technology and data to accelerate the recovery by building back smarter as well as better.”