Can Doha deliver?

Project delivery firm British Consulting, with the backing of the UK and Qatar governments, has launched the Institute for Infrastructure Studies (IIS), a think tank that aims to become a “global centre of excellence” for infrastructure research. 
 
The Doha, Qatar-headquartered think tank is the brainchild of two British Consulting directors – Ian Kennedy and Anthony Holmes. 
 
“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,” argued co-founder and director Kennedy. 
 
“This institute will tackle public and freight transportation systems, ports, social infrastructure and stadia […] to find practical solutions to the funding and management of this increasingly desirable asset class,” he added. 
 
The think tank will publish original research, commission studies, organise conferences and host a data centre/library that aims to provide investors and lenders “with a new, consistent risk evaluation methodology,” the IIS said in a statement. 
 
The institute is especially focused on tackling the problem of project overspend and how it affects large-scale projects. The think tank estimates that many projects over recent years have gone over budget by between 20 percent and 100 percent.
 
“Infrastructure investment can no longer be regarded as a low risk asset class: too many projects have encountered significant delays and exceeded their original budget by a substantial margin. In many cases optimism bias at the outset has led to the operational income stream being materially smaller than the original projection,” the IIS pointed out in a statement. 
 
The think tank highlighted that infrastructure investment over the next 17 years is expected to require between $50 trillion and $70 trillion, which “is greater than the current level of global sovereign debt and the value of OECD infrastructure assets in existence today”. The investment required is roughly equivalent to between 4 percent and 6 percent of projected global gross domestic product (GDP). 
 
Launched with seed funding by British Consulting, the IIS is looking for government and corporate sponsorship to help fund its five-year financial plan. In addition to expanding its offices in Doha, the IIS also has offices in London and eventually plans to open in the US, it said on its website.