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Ideas & Observations

Unlocking potential in the North East

George Mokhtar, director, technology business lead at Turner & Townsend believes understanding sustainability, productivity and digitalisation together is the key to transforming performance.

Many businesses are grappling with complex challenges, scenarios include plotting a course to net zero, adapting to a post-Covid world or staying internationally competitive.

Sitting alongside this are the challenges, opportunities and solutions around sustainability, productivity and digitalisation.

Each of these areas presents a host of opportunities but considering them in isolation misses the point of their mutual dependency.

There is a much bigger prize to be had in terms of driving outstanding performance, delivering transformational change and maximising returns when businesses enhance capabilities and build expertise across these areas in tandem.

Unlocking potential in the North East

What’s fantastic to see in the North East right now is the push around net zero and digital skills.

There is great innovation everywhere. For example, Teesside is looking to deliver the UK’s first zero-carbon industrial cluster and on Tyneside there are the North East digital bootcamps delivered by Baltic Training, Education Partnership North East, Gateshead College, Newcastle College Group, New College Durham, Tyne Coast College and Sunderland Software City.

Productivity is more of a puzzle for the North East, and a long-standing one at that. But digitalisation is a key enabler to unlocking potential. As we work with clients in the built environment to transform how they operate, we are seeing some interesting trends:

  1. Adopting new strategies can be daunting and this is compounded by the constant evolution of technologies and the need to consult supply chains when adopting them.
  2. Making a change requires integration of processes, governance and reporting. In our industry, many demand empirical evidence to compel organisations to change at every level.
  3. If you want to be agile and catch up with the curve, you need to be open about successes, failures and how to respond – influencing the market with a growth mindset.

The role of strategic advisers

We work in partnership with clients and their supply chains to assess, adapt and advance the way they work.

Thinking and working digitally is an enabler for the route to net zero, the circular economy and realising the societal benefits that underpin the purpose for the built environment. To get there we need to be leaner, adopt modern methods of construction and take out the sediment that has built up in processes of the years as a legacy of traditional, outdated ways of working.

The construction industry is now maturing faster than ever, laying the foundations and structures needed to follow in the footsteps of more advanced industries.

We are starting to see real adoption of digital tools enabling robotic process automation and supervised machine learning.

We are seeing more integration of assets and systems as edge computing starts to unlock the analytical potential of Digital Twins – real time, virtual counterparts of physical objects or processes.

Digitalisation and sustainability are two of the most powerful market influences in today’s corporate landscape and their interconnection will only help to strengthen the economy in the North East and contribute to the UK’s rebalancing.