New infrastructure think tank launches in Doha

Institute for Infrastructure Studies aims to become global hub to support $70trn industry
GCC construction, Middle East construction
By Courtney Trenwith
Sun 21 Apr 2013 09:34 AM

A new international think tank aiming to become the global centre of excellence to support the $70trn infrastructure industry has been launched in Doha.

The non-for-profit Institute for Infrastructure Studies is a collaboration between Qatar and the UK and is believed to be the first independent organisation in the world aimed at understanding the financing, risk appraisal and management of large complex infrastructure projects.

London Mayor Boris Johnson and more than 50 senior officials from Qatar, London and other Gulf countries attended the launch on Saturday.

The institute’s initial five-year plan is to provide “original thinking and research into the appraisal and better management of risks associated with large, complex infrastructure programs”.

“This Institute will tackle public and freight transportation systems, ports, social infrastructure and stadia and we look forward to working with and for governments, financial and investment institutions and sponsors of large complex projects to find practical solutions to the funding and management of this increasingly desirable asset class,” co-founder and director Ian Kennedy said in a statement.

“Until now, there has been no independent organisation focused exclusively on researching the problems of infrastructure project delivery, risk appraisal and funding in order to develop new practical methodologies.”

The Qatar Financial Centre Authority is supporting the project and will house the institute’s library and research staff.

The centre’s database of project information will provide investors, lenders and insurers with a new, consistent risk evaluation methodology, a statement says. It will monitor and publish reports on emerging trends in finance, program management and project performance.

Infrastructure is a major focus in the Middle East, where oil-rich nations are looking to invest their strong revenues into projects that will develop their country and provide assets for the future.

Qatar has allocated 40 percent of its budget until 2016 to fund numerous large infrastructure projects, including $5.5bn for a deepwater seaport, $20bn for roads and a $17.5bn new airport.

It also aims to build a $36bn metro in Doha that will link stadiums for the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament, as well as a 490 kilometre rail line linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain through Qatar as part of a planned regional network.

Kennedy said governments world-wide had realised since the global financial crisis that investing in infrastructure was the “single most effective policy option” to help stimulate their economies.

However, there was insufficient understanding of how to plan, finance and manage such projects, which often cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The forecast global expenditure of $50-70trn over the next 17 years may suffer from huge constraints in the availability of finance as investors become more risk averse in the face of costly project delays that impede achievement of the very social objectives they set out to facilitate,” he said.

Anthony Holmes, chair of British Consulting and co- founder of the institute said the institute would provide a new way of thinking around infrastructure projects.

“Financial restrictions and an elevated risk to project completion is not an attractive combination and conventional thinking about infrastructure development has failed to provide solutions to these problems,” he said.

“Governments, public sponsors and private investors need an independent and authoritative source of knowledge and expertise to evaluate complex projects. The institute will serve academics and practitioners involved in the fields of infrastructure financing, development and delivery.”

Johnson, who launched the foundation as part of his visit to the Gulf this week, said it provide insight to reduce costs and speed up the delivery of landmark projects.

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