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Project X awarded major ESRC funding

A large ESRC grant has been awarded for research into improving the delivery of major government projects.

Project X, which involves Prof Paul Nightingale (Science Policy Research Unit – SPRU) and Dr Rebecca Vine (Accounting and Finance), has been awarded a major three-year ESRC grant. The project is an innovative, multi-institutional research collaboration between the UK government, universities, industry and project delivery professions.

Established in 2016, Project X is a unique partnership with the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) – the non-ministerial department within the Cabinet Office, responsible for the oversight of major government projects and programmes such as HS2, Thames Tideway and Crossrail, as well as major transformation projects such as NHS Digital and the Prison Estates Transformation Programme. For these major programmes, delivery timescales and costs often overrun beyond planned expectations. Project X’s overarching aim is to generate research insights to enrich academic and policymaker understanding of the dynamics of project delivery. 

The ESRC grant will enable the research team to investigate how policy objectives are translated into performance outcomes across the UK Government’s £423bn portfolio of Transformation, IT, Infrastructure and Defence Projects. If Project X is successful in enabling even a 1% improvement to 5% of the projects in this portfolio, it will have generated savings of roughly £250m.

Project X comprises six themes; Prof Nightingale will lead Theme F: ‘Transformational Projects,’ and Dr Vine will focus on performance management and control within Theme E: ‘Capability and Knowledge Management.’

Announcing the news on LinkedIn, Terri Harrington (Director of Project X) commented:

“We believe delivery of this research will lead to increased success for projects and programmes both inside and outside of government. The stakes are high; for government, our research aims are to provide practical advice and tools that will lead to improvement in project delivery and the achievement of the benefits, ultimately delivering better products for the UK citizen and financial savings to government. In the world of academia, our aim is to deliver improvements into research capacity and capability of researchers as well as adding to the body of knowledge for project delivery.”

The grant, which totals over £1m, will be distributed between the University of Sussex and the Universities of Manchester, Hull, Brighton, Bath, Edinburgh and Oxford, as well as University College London and Cranfield University.

By: Katherine Davies
Last updated: Thursday, 6 December 2018