Prior to the UK's recent and controversial referendum, Stephan Jones, Trimble MEP Design & Engineering Segment Manager, reflected on how the AEC industry - and particularly BIM - might fare whether those who cast their vote opted to stay or go. Now the dust has settled a little, he offers his thoughts on BIM post the narrow 'Leave' victory.
Brexit happened and 48% of the population that voted (some 16,141,241 souls) were sorely disappointed.
Despite waiting for two weeks to glimpse the fallout we have no tangible insight into the effects of Brexit on BIM. We do now have a new Prime Minister whose headline grabbing soundbite was “Brexit means Brexit”, but we should not lose sight of the fact that such a simplistic statement is unlikely to translate into the ensuing negotiations.
Before the referendum, I pointed out two principal factors that could influence the march of BIM, namely labour resources and competitiveness in a global market, and these remain the watch points.
Firstly, it is worth looking at the state of the economy which, were it to suffer through the loss of access to the common market, it is not inconceivable that key projects such as HS2 and Hinckley Point may be mothballed or cancelled. So far, whilst the value of the pound has dropped (good for exports) and the stock markets have tumbled, they have somewhat rebounded indicating that the UK fundamentals have not changed and as the world adjusts the UK will continue to be an attractive place to do business.
On the 14th July, we had positive announcements from the Minister for Transport endorsing HS2 and similar for Hinckley Point. Throw in the positive enquiries to establish trade agreements from Australia and others and we could have wider relationships in place before even the EU.
On the point of competitiveness which was a central aim of mandating BIM by the UK government, the dynamics have not worsened and may actually be spurred on as the UK finds its new place in the world. Exporting knowledge and expertise will contribute to reducing our balance of payments deficit, something no Chancellor would walk away from.
On the labour resource front, whilst the UK borders may be closed to migration from the EU the UK has a long history of encouraging inward migration to fill resource gaps such doctors and nurses; the UK is pragmatic and the influence from industry is seldom ignored so there is no reason to surmise that construction professionals will not be granted the necessary permits to come and work our high wage economy.
Reflecting on the broad number of starting projects reporting the use of BIM, not just those commissioned by public bodies but also broadly across the commercial sector, it looks like BIM has gained sufficient momentum to carry it forward.