Selecting Excellence: Clyde Commercial Framework sets billion-pound transformation in motion

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has announced a comprehensive £1.3 billion funding package to establish HM Naval Base Clyde as the new home of the Royal Navy’s contingent of hunter-killer submarines by 2020, and the future home of the forthcoming Dreadnought Class of nuclear deterrent submarines. 

Clearly, this will be a landmark transformation; one which promises to significantly boost the regional economy over the coming decade, and generate upwards of 1000 construction-related contracts in the process. But as the hunt for construction partners intensified, DIO took the radical step of revolutionising its selection process. 

Principally, the decision to shake things up was driven by two questions any procurement specialist worth their salt will have asked themselves. How do you choose between suppliers whose skills and experience are comparable, and how can you be sure that today’s construction partner will be capable of delivering a project on time and to budget ten years down the line? 

With these questions in mind, DIO’s commercial branch consulted with procurement specialists from Mott MacDonald and Jacobs to create its own bespoke approach; the Clyde Commercial Framework. Given the project’s considerable size, the team opted for a framework of multiple contracts rather than a single consolidated offering. This would give key stakeholders the opportunity to build long-term relationships while also encouraging a degree of competition between the three chosen construction partners. 

But for DIO, it quickly became clear that any one of the five prequalified companies could deliver the works from a purely technical standpoint. Instead, the differentiator became the people themselves, the relationships between them and their ability to work collaboratively. Behavioural experts were drafted in to observe and analyse interactions as part of a wider evaluation of each applicant. Workshops and interviews took place during which each bidder outlined their own approach to collaborative working and mapped out how they would go about implementing development objectives and plans. 

This criterion allowed DIO to form a fuller picture of each organisation’s working practices and, crucially, who they felt they would work best with over the course of a decade. The three chosen companies were VolkerStevin, Kier Graham Defence and Morgan Sindall, it was later announced. 

“We are thrilled to have been appointed to the DIO’s new Clyde Commercial Framework working in joint venture with Graham,” said Brian McQuade, Managing Director for Kier Construction in Scotland. 

“Kier was one of the first companies to sign the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant in 2013, putting it at the heart of its policy, and understanding the importance the construction industry plays in supporting the nation’s defence and security. Together we look forward to providing highquality buildings and infrastructure to HMNB Clyde, which will allow the Ministry of Defence to continue to carry out its vital operations effectively.” 

According to Gary Holmes, Regional Managing Director at Graham: “The DIO’s pioneering new approach to this major contract stresses the necessity for collaboration, transparency and trust. Securing our place on the framework in the face of major competitors is testimony to the seamless nature of the Kier Graham Defence partnership. 

“Together we understand the complexities of working within secure environments and this appointment underlines our expertise within the defence sector and builds on our combined success in delivering first-class projects throughout the UK.” 

The ten-year transformation will require each construction partner to take on a variety of project types, with values ranging from £10 million to £90 million. These could be standalone, new builds – accommodation or training facilities, for example – right the way through to complex refurbishments of nuclear infrastructure in high-security, operational areas. 

Ian Arbuckle, DIO Assistant Head of Commercial Services, added: “We are incredibly pleased to launch our new framework for the Clyde. We have successfully selected three reputable industry partners who have demonstrated a commitment to delivering better value for defence.” 

Already, preparatory work has begun. DIO recently oversaw the wholesale refurbishment of 34 Service homes in nearby Helensburgh. High-quality housing will be especially important if some 1400 Royal Navy submariners are to relocate from Plymouth to HMNB Clyde. Currently, the naval base accommodates 6800 personnel, though the working population is expected to swell to 8500 by the transformation’s end. In the future all submariners can expect to serve their entire military careers at HM Naval Base Clyde, ensuring stability for them and their families. 

“The expansion of activity at Clyde and growth of our Service population over the next few years means that we need to make best use of all available accommodation,” said Captain Craig Mearns, HMNB Clyde’s Captain of the Base. 

“It is important that what we have to offer is of a high standard, not only because that is what our people deserve, but also because we aim to encourage an increasing number of Service families to relocate to this area. The offer of good housing, coupled with the excellent amenities and quality of life on offer here, are significant attractions for those considering such a move.” 

While still in its infant stages, the Clyde Commercial Framework has so far proven a runaway success. As a framework that prioritises collaborative working right the way through the supply chain, it may even become the blueprint for larger, long-term DIO schemes going forward.