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The Chancellor of the Exchequer established the National Infrastructure Commission to produce a clear picture of the future infrastructure the country needs and provide expert, independent advice on infrastructure priorities. The Commission operates as an Executive Agency of the Treasury under its Chair Sir John Armitt.
At Autumn Statement 2016, the Chancellor asked the Commission to undertake a study into how technology can improve infrastructure productivity. The Commission’s report on technology, ‘Data for the Public Good’ was published on 14 December 2017.
This document sets out the Government’s response to the Commission’s recommendations.
2. Data for the Public Good
The government welcomes the NIC’s report which highlights the significant potential value of data, machine learning and artificial intelligence across our infrastructure assets. The NIC focussed its recommendations on realising the benefits of smart infrastructure through data sharing. Government agrees that greater data sharing has the potential to further modernise our construction industry, improve the productivity of our infrastructure and support the UK’s digital economy. Government is grateful to the NIC for their work in this area. Government recognises this opportunity to support the next wave of data sharing and digitisation across our infrastructure networks. The approach set out in this government response will help us understand the potential value of data in more detail and how we best maximise this value for UK Infrastructure. It will give us a roadmap for delivering an ambitious programme.
Government has already taken a range of transformational steps to advance this agenda. The UK BIM Task Group under the Construction Industry Council (CIC) coordinated the development of Level 2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) with the goal of using digitisation to improve sector productivity and realise greater efficiency in the UK’s construction sector. The application of BIM standards, tools and skills contributed to Central Government Departments delivering over £3 billion of capital construction efficiency savings from 2011-15 , a clear demonstration of the value of prioritising information quality and active data management. The UK now leads the international field and has grown architectural, engineering, construction and information services exports as a result of this growing expertise. Government and industry have worked together to embed BIM into major projects including the Olympics, Crossrail and High Speed 2. This government is making record levels of investment in infrastructure and will continue to use major projects to push forward this important agenda.
At Autumn Budget 2017, as part of HMG’s ‘Industrial Strategy’ government partnered with academia and industry to create the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) at the University of Cambridge. The remit of CDBB is to expand digitisation and data use beyond construction efficiency to help create high performing assets in their operation and to support the growth of our current and future cities.
Government ambition has grown from achieving construction capital cost efficiencies to improving national productivity through data and digitisation, ensuring built and natural assets provide high performing services to their users. In December, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority published Transforming Infrastructure Performance, the government’s long term plan to improve the productivity of the construction and infrastructure sectors. In TIP government sets out its ambition, over the next 10 years, to deliver smarter projects and embed digital technologies to improve infrastructure delivery and performance, consistent with the objectives of the Industrial Strategy. The Department for Transport also published its Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy in December, which sets out how these ambitions will be applied to drive efficiency and productivity in transport. At Autumn Budget 2017 the Chancellor announced a new Geospatial Commission to maximise the value of all UK Government data linked to location, to create jobs and growth in the modern economy.
The government has agreed the following response.
2.1 Recommendation 1: The Government should task the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) with the establishment of a digital framework for infrastructure data, drawing together key organisations and existing initiatives both large scale (BIM) and smaller scale:
a. A Digital Framework Task Group for infrastructure data should be established with a high-profile chair who can act as a national champion for this agenda.
b. CDBB should set out a roadmap to a digital framework to develop standards and formats for collating and sharing data.
c. Key organisations which should be involved in the Task Group and in developing the framework include the Alan Turing Institute (ATI), Infrastructure Client Group (ICG), Construction Leadership Council, Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, Project 13, Office for National Statistics, Ordnance Survey, Open Data Institute and the recently announced Geospatial Commission and Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. Wider consultation input should also be sought from the digital twin working group referenced in section 5.
d. On standards development, in order to understand the existing standards landscape thoroughly at both a national and supranational level and to ensure agility, CDBB should consult extensively with industry on current behaviours and future requirements for how different infrastructure sectors and sub-sectors use data. CDBB may wish to Commission an external standards organisation to conduct some of this work on their behalf.
e. IPA and ICG should be engaged with closely when designing final data standards and performance measures. The ICG amongst others will also be important to consult in respect of appropriate safeguards for commercial confidentiality, with the aim of keeping these to a minimum level wherever possible.
f. There should also be close collaboration with the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on security requirements and levels of access and to develop standards for security, consistent with the objectives of the framework and an agreed approach to risk management.
g. In order to support effective implementation, CDBB should also lead a scoping exercise for a framework to assess industry progress in adopting and using the framework and to measure the level of innovation achieved by industry.
h. CDBB should complete these actions and provide a public report on progress by 1 September 2018, setting out their recommendations for next steps. The NIC would assess this as part of its wider role in monitoring progress against its recommendations.
The government welcomes the Commission’s recommendations to develop a common industry approach to data and digitisation to improve productivity across infrastructure and construction. There is a huge amount of data in relation to our infrastructure, owned by a wide range of organisations. We need to understand where data sharing can unlock the greatest value, and what standards the digital framework will need to contain in order to unlock the greatest benefits.
As recommended by the NIC, the government has asked CDBB to establish the Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG) which should set out a roadmap to a digital framework for infrastructure. The roadmap should set out: where data sharing can provide the greatest benefits; who holds this data; what standards are needed to enable greater sharing; how a framework would be implemented; and the role of government and the private sector in delivering this.
The DFTG should report to government by October 2018 to inform decisions on how best to design and deliver a full framework.
Government endorses the recommendations that encourage the DFTG to engage and consult extensively with industry on current behaviours and future requirements for how different infrastructure sectors and sub-sectors use data - to ensure that the roadmap presents a comprehensive view that is consistent with government objectives and supported by industry. The roadmap should consider the innovative work already ongoing in this area and take a system based approach to ensure the potential value of integrative systems across sectors can be exploited. Given the substantial links to the work set out here, the DFTG should ensure the digital framework roadmap is informed by and consistent with the National Geospatial Strategy that will be set by the Geospatial Commission.
Government endorses the recommendations to consider security requirements and commercial confidentiality. The roadmap should ensure it considers the interdependencies with social infrastructure in order for its full benefits to be realised.
2.2 Recommendation 2: The Infrastructure Client Group (ICG) and the Digital Framework Task Group Chair should lead industry engagement in the framework and cultivate a shift towards minimum levels of commercial confidentiality.
a. ICG should report to CDBB on current industry compliance with minimum levels of commercial confidentiality agreed with CDBB in recommendation 1.
b. ICG should work collaboratively with industry and the Digital Framework Task Group to identify opportunities to make data available and reduce the unnecessary use of commercial confidentiality (e.g. through reviewing and revising existing digital contracts), and should set out an agreed plan with milestones towards achieving the proposed shift.
c. ICG should report on progress in reducing the application of commercial confidentiality to infrastructure data by December 2018.
Government endorses these recommendations and asks the Infrastructure Client Group to lead this work, aligning it as appropriate with its recently launched digital transformation initiative and provide a progress update by the end of the year. The Infrastructure Client Group (ICG) should reach out to its member organisations and the DFTG should engage other relevant industry clients and groups to ensure the full range of perspectives and interests are represented in this work. The ICG and DFTG should give consideration to security implications in its report. The ICG should work with its members and the wider economic infrastructure client community to identify regulatory barriers to data sharing as part of this work, to support the regulators and UKRN in addressing these barriers (see Recommendation 3).
The government asks that the ICG publish further information via their workplan in the coming weeks. Recommendation 3: The Digital Framework Task Group should work with the UK Regulators Network and relevant government departments to review and, where possible, strengthen the role of economic regulators in driving up the quality and openness of infrastructure data.
a. Participation by the UK Regulators Network in the formulation of the digital framework set up by CDBB to ensure that it is effectively aligned with regulatory work on innovation and data.
b. Assessment of the potential role of regulators and of possible barriers within current regulatory frameworks regarding:
- ensuring compliance by regulated network operators and utilities with the national framework and adherence to data collection standards and formats
- sharing of data to inform better understanding of asset performance and user experience
- sharing of data across infrastructure sectors and the value chain to enable greater innovation in the development of new technologies and data management focused on better asset management and increased productivity
c. Support for CDBB’s engagement with network operators and utilities around the provision of data of verified quality for the development of a national infrastructure digital twin over the long term.
d. Identification of relevant areas for further trials or studies to enable regulators, and regulated industries, to understand and demonstrate how monitoring technologies and data can support cost-effective maintenance decisions and proactive asset management, working with relevant research organisations.
Government endorses these recommendations, and asks that this work to identify and where appropriate address regulatory barriers be undertaken by the Office for Rail and Road, Ofgem, Ofcom and Ofwat. It asks that the UK Regulators Network (UKRN) take the lead in coordinating this work between the regulators, promoting coherence of approach and facilitating sharing of information and good practice, and acting as the primary interface between the regulators and the Task Group, the ICG, government and other relevant stakeholders.
As part of its role, the UKRN should support alignment between the work of the Task Group and the regulators on the technology and data agenda, and work with regulators, clients and relevant research organisations to identify and assess existing or potential use cases, trials or studies.
The government asks that the UKRN provide a progress update on this work by the end of the year to ministers. As a first step, the government welcomes the UKRN’s announced plans to refresh its guidance on Cross-Sector Infrastructure Interactions, including its commitment to place much greater emphasis on enabling data sharing and innovation.
2.3 Recommendation 4: CDBB should collaborate with the Alan Turing Institute (ATI) and the UK infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC) in pioneering digital twin models with predictive capability in the UK. CDBB should work with BEIS to take forward a digital twin pilot – reviewed by Oct 2018.
a. CDBB should work with BEIS and other potential funders to take forward a digital twin pilot project to explore and experiment with the benefits of building a digital twin of a specific geographical area. CDBB, ATI and ITRC should draw upon input from the digital twin working group identified in section 5.
b. A project review of the pilot digital twin should be completed by October 2018. This should consider the lessons learnt for any future development of larger-scale or more complex digital twins, and the most effective institutional structures to support continuing progress in this area.
Government agrees there is potential value in digital twin models with predictive capability in the UK. As part of the roadmap (referenced above) government has asked CDBB and the DFTG to consider what programme of work is needed to enable the development of digital twin models and how government and the private sector can support this work. Different pilot studies may be needed to explore the potential of digital twin models to improve the productivity of UK infrastructure.
The DFTG should work collaboratively with industry and academia. The roadmap should identify how digital twins can contribute to infrastructure models that can support decisions on what to build, where and how, to minimise cost and maximise whole life performance and benefits. The DFTG should work with infrastructure clients to identify opportunities to test predictive models.