Atkins has formed a partnership with artificial intelligence technology start-up company, nPlan, to explore new data-driven contracting models for major project delivery
The work – which will be supported through funding from Innovate UK – brings together Atkins’ project delivery experience and nPlan’s cutting edge machine learning technology.
It will identify and assess a new approach to contracting that focuses on collaboration and changes the way risk is measured, shared and managed across major infrastructure programmes.
nPlan machine learning technology uses multiple techniques to learn how projects perform.
At a high level, the algorithm learns by comparing the individual activities in a baseline schedule to activities in an actualised schedule. This process is repeated hundreds of millions of times building out a knowledge base of project performance which will allow for impartial and collective forecasting, increased transparency between project partners and a shared, improved view of project risk.
The team will work alongside asset owners such as Heathrow Airport to analyse the current contracting models before developing and piloting data and technology-driven alternatives over the next 12 months.
The research forms part of Atkins’ ongoing focus and investment into digital solutions that have the potential to transform infrastructure delivery – will also identify how technology can support initiatives, such as the Institute of Civil Engineer’s Project 13 and proposed reinventions of New Engineering Contracts.
Findings will be shared in autumn 2021 and published in an open industry report.
Unlock and encourage innovation
Richard Robinson, Atkins UK & Europe CEO, said: “The industry has historically been slow to adopt new technology, in part due to the risk and rewards mechanisms of its contracting models.
“As such, there needs to be a step-change if we’re going to unlock and encourage innovation which can serve to increase the predictability of project performance and deliver whole-life value to ensure better returns on investment for our clients.”
Dev Amratia, CEO at nPlan, said: “Atkins and the wider SNC-Lavalin group were one of our earliest backers and we’ve worked together for almost two years now.
“We’re excited to partner with an immensely talented team to investigate how powerful machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms can be applied to help solve some of the industry’s long-standing problems.”
Jon Kerbey, digital director at Heathrow, added: “Accelerating and broadening the learning and feedback process on project performance through the use of artificial intelligence has the potential to transform the way in which we procure, plan and deliver projects.
“We are delighted to be working with Atkins and nPlan on this innovative initiative.”