Agility and collaboration: navigating the complexities of modern defence construction

Date: April 29, 2024
Tom Jacobs Defence Director Sweet Projects
Tom Jacobs, Defence Director, Sweet Projects

In 2024, among a number of global challenges, there are equally a great deal of opportunities, as the wider defence and aerospace industry evolves and adapts.

Partnering clients in both the public and private sector has given us not only a clear understanding of pain points, but also confidence that our agile way of working and collaborative nature is correctly positioned when working on defence design, construction and refurbishment projects.

As we move through these past few challenging years, it is clear that there are significant external factors that have been affecting – and will continue to affect – defence construction in the UK.

Geopolitical complexities aside, the industry is remaining agile to contend with supply chain disruptions, scarcity of skilled workforce, escalating material costs and inflationary pressures.

That said, the attitude and collaborative nature of many recent conversations – including at the recent DPRTE, more on this below – is an indicator of the positivity in the defence industry overall, and one I can vouch for within the projects I am leading on.

I’m particularly proud of our wider team who demonstrate agility in their day-to-day work. From our on-site teams dealing with reactive issues and unexpected problems arising, to our head office teams making sure everything runs smoothly, we all share a similar approach.

Furthermore, the creative use of digitalisation in technological solutions continues to be both innovative and practical. Decarbonisation is at a critical stage where we all must work hard to do more, and challenge more. And collaborative projects are the most effective and efficient way to proceed, opening up dialogue sooner and working together through bumps in the road.

Agility and collaboration at DPRTE

Recently, we had the privilege of attending the 2024 DPRTE (Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability) Conference, an event that serves as a central, and fast-growing, meeting point for innovation, collaboration, and strategic thinking within the defence procurement and supply chain landscape.

Held in historic Farnborough – the home of aviation and aerospace in the UK – more than 2,700 people from across the defence world attended the one-day event. It was great to see so many colleagues, peers and friends pass our stand, and understand a little more about what we’re doing in the sector.

Unsurprisingly, it was standing room only at some of the keynotes and speeches, as well as at the array of seminars, talks and explainers from experts across the defence spectrum.

We heard invaluable insights into emerging technologies, procurement strategies, and regulatory frameworks that will be shaping the future of defence construction.

Myself and my Sweet colleagues took a particular interest in the Sustainability and Infrastructure & Estates Zones, where we listened to speakers from Arcadis, the DIO, ADS, Boeing and BA Systems among others.

Some real strong takeaways from a sustainability and net zero angle, including considering Whole Life Carbon Assessment, and how to ensure we’re doing all we can, alongside other supply chain partners, to make practical, tangible changes on-site.

Other topics included looking at regional defence clusters with DASA, a great talk from Andrew Kinniburgh, Director at Make UK Defence on Driving the SME & Mid-Tier Agenda in UK Defence, and understanding more how the DIO is approaching major projects and programmes in the coming years from Ben Leil (Head of Commercial/Deputy Director).

This latter talk was about improving the infrastructure’s sustainability efficiency, following on from the DIO Strategy 2020-2030, as well as the Integrated Review Refresh 2023.

And we were also pleased to hear the increased discussions around spiral procurement – aka the integrated procurement model – to help speed up and make more efficient processes for all parties involved.

It is great to hear that the next DPRTE will be a two-day event in 2025, and expected attendance to jump again to more than 3,000 – a great reason to revisit and foster more collaborative partnerships in the future.

We’re really proud to be part of the wider defence community in the UK and are building and strengthening ties with new and existing colleagues and peers in both the public and private sector.