Talking Infrastructure with Nick Chism, IPFA’s Global Chair

Talking Infrastructure with Nick Chism, IPFA’s Global Chair

Nick Chism was appointed as Global Chair of IPFA earlier this year. He was previously Chief Business Adviser in the UK Government. Prior to this, he was Global Chair of Infrastructure, Government & Healthcare at KPMG, where he was also Deputy Head of Global Markets.

We spoke to Nick about his current perspectives on infrastructure.

Nick, how are you finding your new role?

I’m loving it, thank you. It’s an exciting time to be in the world of infrastructure, which is starting a new and critical chapter in its development. And IPFA is an important global platform where we can come together to make sense of it all.

What’s this new chapter about?

There are three urgent plotlines that are going to run through this decade and infrastructure is integral to each of them.

Firstly, there’s a political and economic thread. Look at how infrastructure dominates the agenda in the US right now. Globally, this is about supporting the post-pandemic recovery. It’s about addressing declining productivity and accelerating the technologies and industries of tomorrow. It’s about the B3W (Build Back Better World) vying with Belt & Road.

Secondly, there’s a thread about the future path of society, evident in the surge in ESG. The pandemic has highlighted deep issues about equality, health, education and well-being. The 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are a common agenda to address these issues this decade and they are all underpinned by infrastructure.

Thirdly, of course, there’s the future of the planet and the need to design and implement detailed roadmaps for the Net Zero transformation of energy, transport and cities, supported by new technologies.

These themes aren’t going to go away. The execution of these programmes will shape our future world and, in infrastructure terms, add up to the largest and most challenging investment programme in history. They also make this the most dynamic, forward-looking market I can remember.

And what role does IPFA play in this?

Modest… but very, very useful. To deliver, our members face huge challenges that require collaboration on an unprecedented scale. I’ve always liked IPFA because it is a platform created by the industry for the industry. It’s not for profit, it’s multi-disciplinary, it has a staggering global membership from across the public and private sectors. That’s an incredible platform to share ideas, build networks and develop skills. If we didn’t already have IPFA, I believe our members would be looking to create it!

What are the delivery challenges we need to discuss?

I group them under six broad headings. And each of these areas requires action from within our membership to convert aspirations into detailed implementation.

There’s a leadership challenge for the public and private sectors to mobilise and shape multiple new markets with pipelines that are bankable and have public support.

There’s a challenge around innovation & skills. “Move fast and break things” isn’t in our DNA. But the marriage of infrastructure and digitalisation means we must be forward looking. Sectors and places face profound transformation by new technologies. We need evolved business models to become more creative and flexible. And we need to grow capacity and compete to attract talent and new skills.

There’s a longstanding challenge of efficiency that is worth trillions. This centres on best practice for project planning and delivery, for managing user demand, and for asset management.

There’s the “$100 trillion question” on funding. Will we, as taxpayers and consumers, be willing to pay for this? That links to questions around regulation, financing and behaviour change.

The last two years have focused minds on resilience. Infrastructure systems have sustained us but have also been severely challenged. We need to be better prepared for future health emergencies, for extreme weather events, and for cyber and other security threats.

I also think we have a major challenge around inclusion. We can’t succeed on the scale required without becoming more open and accessible to future talent and to the societies we ultimately serve. Public trust is critical.

And what are you hoping to achieve?

I want to help the IPFA team succeed in supporting our members during this period of change. I think we’ll do that by tapping into the great thinking that is going on across our membership base and beyond. We’ll do that by engaging more closely, aligning to regional and sectoral trends, and bringing new players into the discussion as markets grow. I’m excited to get know our Future Leaders Network and want to do all we can to help them connect, develop and grow.


Nick will be digging deeper into these issues through a series of video interviews on our Knowledge Hub. As we plan this, if you want to suggest interesting topics or speakers, do please contact [email protected] or speak to your local IPFA contact. We would love to hear from you!

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