Critical Infrastructure Summit panel members

The inaugural Critical Infrastructure Summit featured five Virtual Conferences running every Wednesday in September, thousands of delegates tuning in, and a speaker lineup of leaders from across the infrastructure sector offering their expertise on current challenges, major construction projects, asset and disaster management, and future industry predictions.

It was a huge month, kicking off with Critical Infrastructure: State of play; then Construct 2020; Asset Management for Critical Infrastructure; Disaster Management; and wrapping up with The Future of Infrastructure.

Each Virtual Conference in the Summit had more than 1,000 people register and featured important discussions on the most pressing issues facing Australia’s infrastructure industry.

Critical Infrastructure: state of play

Romilly Madew, CEO of Infrastructure Australia (IA), opened the Summit with her keynote presentation outlining ten infrastructure principles IA has agreed upon with its counterparts in the states and territories as part of the post-COVID recovery.

Romilly wrote an article to go alongside her presentation, which you can read here.

We also had Mark Crosweller AFSM, Head of National Resilience Taskforce at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, share his expertise in developing resilience in an increasingly complex global environment.

Delegate Scott Ryall said it was “one of the most thought-provoking presentations I have seen”. We were also extremely lucky to be joined by three industry leaders for the panel session.

The last six months in infrastructure. Kirk Coningham, CEO, Australian Logistics Council; Marie Lam-Frendo, CEO, Global Infrastructure Hub; and Chris Melham, CEO, Civil Contractors Federation (National) created a fascinating discussion, not only around how their sectors have been impacted by COVID-19, but also at issues around skills, data and infrastructure funding.

Construct 2020

Construct 2020 delivered fantastic insights into some of the country’s biggest infrastructure projects. The conference kicked off with welcome remarks from the Hon Michael McCormack MP, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.

He said the government is accelerating works under the record $100 billion blueprint and he had some words for our delegates throughout the construction industry.

“Our national construction sector represents 8.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, supporting more than a million Aussie jobs. This means infrastructure will help lead us through the worst of this pandemic and into the light at the other end.

“You are all an integral part of this and the government thanks you for your commitment, your dedication to infrastructure development, especially at this tough time.

“Together we’re doing two vital things, tackling the current downturn right now, but importantly, using this to build an even stronger economy down the track,” Minister McCormack said.

Our keynote speaker Priscilla Radice, CEO, Infrastructure Association of Queensland, further built on the idea that we need a mix of “short run and long run projects; small spend and larger spend; local and regional; place-based and interregional projects – that together create a legacy.”

Priscilla gave a great exploration of Queensland’s role for infrastructure in revitalisation; including the future of its cities, the industry ecosystem, and new models for growth.

After a higher level look at the pipeline and project funding, we then delved deep into some technical construction informationon three of the biggest construction projects underway in Australia, across different sectors.

Tom McCormack, Chief Information Officer, Western Sydney Airport, outlined the construction task ahead for the Western Sydney Airport, and how the project will become Australia’s first smart airport.

Paul Thomas, Deputy Director of Tunnels and Stations, Rail Projects Victoria, gave delegates a closer look at the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project with an informative exploration of the current and future works.

Then Peter Engelen, GM Planning and Infrastructure, NSW Ports, closed the conference with a detailed analysis of construction works at NSW Ports, such as the on-dock rail at Port Botany.

Asset Management for Critical Infrastructure

Peter Seltsikas, Senior Manager, Asset Management at SA Water, gave delegates advice on how to develop strategic asset management plans in an uncertain future.

He explored concepts around connecting with customers, building capabilities, and resilience, but one of the fundamental takeaways was about really understanding how your assets are performing, something that SA Water is doing with the implementation of smart technology on its water main networks.

“Better understanding of asset performance will allow you to make the best decisions in an uncertain future,” Peter said.

Then, Matt Henson, Asset Management Systems Manager and Acting Lead for Asset Systems & Assurance at Jemena, gave us a detailed presentation on the interplay between asset management, risk management, resilience and change adaption.

We were also joined by Nicola Belcher, Director of Rail Assets, Projects and Compliance at the Victorian Department of Transport; Russell Riding, Automation Team Leader at Melbourne Water; and Bruce Thompson, Executive Director Spatial Services at the NSW Department of Customer Service, for the industry panel The role of machine learning, AI and digital twins in asset management.

Wrapping up the event was Bradley Hocking, Program Lead, Asset Management Systems at Shoal Group, who provided some great industry case studies looking at the work he’s done on an innovative Asset Management System Framework.

Disaster Management

We were fortunate to have Tony Histon, Transmission & Distribution Lead, Accenture Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, deliver the keynote on achieving resilience through a new harsh reality, and then stick around for an extended Q&A session to give delegates the chance to join in on the conversation.

Then we were joined by Mark Cannadine, Manager Business Resilience, ElectraNet SA; Victoria Chantra, Associate Director – Environment, AECOM; and John Kilgour, CEO Civil Contractors Federation, Victoria, for the industry panel Preparing for the next disaster: how can we be ready for whatever is in store.

John provided interesting insights on how the construction industry is coping with COVID-19; Victoria was able to speak to the importance of ensuring sustainability is embedded into the heart of the work we do to rebuild in the years to come; and Mark reflected that while there has been enormous change this year, it has brought opportunity.

What we have learned this year, as organisations, is just how adaptable our people are.

Future of Infrastructure

Adrian Hart, Associate Director – Construction and Maintenance at BIS Oxford Economics, looked at future infrastructure opportunities and challenges. He said that over the next two years the sectors that will experience the strongest growth are transportation sectors including bridges, railways and roads.

On the other end of the scale, telecom and pipelines, as well as utilities sectors, electricity and water, will have the least amount of growth. One major point in Adrian’s presentation was about sustainability in infrastructure, from sustainability of funding to environmental factors.

Then, Yale Wong, PhD, ANZ Market Lead (Public Transport) at the Cities Forum, presented lessons for public transport, infrastructure, procurement and the future of our cities.

With a focus on Australia’s public transport, Yale explored what our systems could look like post-pandemic, including the use of technologies (sanitation, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence); creating agile and resilient operations; and reforms in the public/private incentivisation model.

He looked at how Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and travel demand management (TDM) can allow us to leverage the potential of active and micro mobility modes to better spread demand.

He also outlined a series of policy recommendations and said, “We stand at a critical juncture to leverage this crisis into an opportunity to remake our cities and communities for the better.”

We were then joined by Caroline Wilkie, CEO, Australasian Railway Association (ARA); Claire Parry, Managing Director, Infrastructure Skills Advisory; and Radmila Desic, Queensland Women on Tools Committee Member and Lifetime Member, National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), for the industry panel The future of skills and training.

This was a fascinating discussion and a great way to end the conference, and the entire Summit. Our panellists talked about a number of pressing industry topics, everything from current skills shortages, to the impact of evolving technologies; areas workers should be upskilling in; and encouraging the participation and training of underrepresented groups including women, Indigenous workers, and young people.

The Critical Infrastructure Summit will be back in 2021!

The Critical Infrastructure Summit will be running again in April 2021. As we saw from this year, a lot can change in six months, so we’ll be bringing you an update on where the infrastructure industry sits next year and explore some of the biggest topics and challenges across different sectors.

Keep an eye on Infrastructure and www.critical-infrastructure.com.au for further announcements on next year’s Summit.

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