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Our world city: risks and opportunities for London’s competitive advantage to 2050.

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A new way of building


Atkins response to 'A City for All Londoners'.

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Richmond upon Thames College


The Atkins-designed mixed-use development includes a further education college, a new free school, a special educational needs school and a Technology Hub.

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We’re working on London’s biggest infrastructure projects, including the Thames Tideway Tunnel.
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Latest Angles

Nathan Marsh
10 Mar 2017

Traditionally, the city’s connectivity has been based on a predominantly physical and modal transport network, with a digital network applied around existing physical infrastructure only recently. While this has created some flexibility in how the network can respond to newer, digitally based services, there are some fixed constraints to the existing physical network that have had to be worked around.

With the capital’s population set to reach 12 million by 2050 an enhanced transport network is essential, but improving the physical aspects will take time and investment. This has to happen, but in order to make London’s transport infrastructure fit for future purpose we need both the physical and the digital elements in place. If configured smartly, these can be mutually supportive and additive.

This is where London can be a global leader in Intelligent mobility, one of the areas we suggested as a key focus for the capital in our response to Sadiq Khan’s London Plan.

A core principle of intelligent mobility is to spot, align and leverage benefits of each improvement project and increase the extent to which they are additive or benefiting of cities, towns and users. For London the question isn’t, “Can London take a more intelligent approach to mobility,” but, “Can London afford not to embrace intelligent mobility, as it finds itself both causing and being impacted by some profound changes?” – changes that include demographic change, the need to improve air quality, ease congestion and meet the housing demand.

In order for London to remain globally competitive, it’s key that infrastructure investments deliver maximised benefits.  Intelligent mobility can help address this challenge and unlock London’s next wave of potential.

Will we ever see a single ‘intelligent mobility programme’ set up and run by the Greater London Authority or Transport for London?  It’s unlikely as we would need to wait for the appropriate conditions (like a single, mega data platform), substantial funding and extensive planning. A more agile approach is already being taken and if we look around we can already see intelligent mobility solutions in action, in London, now.

This includes initiatives such as Greenwich’s GATEway CAV (Connected Autonomous Vehicles) pilot; the innovation in automation by Volvo, Uber and others; the changes in approaches to digital and account based ticketing across Oyster (with handheld device and bank card functionality); Electric Vehicles (EVs) being implemented across the bus network (improving air quality); new approaches to vehicle charging (helping address congestion and air quality); plans for 5G roll out and innovation in promoting flexible working patterns (to help manage peak loading on the physical and digital transport network). 

These, and other similar projects, are and will continue to bring real improvements for the people of London, in all aspects of their lives. They are only a snapshot of current initiatives, so if we stand back and look at where we are, we should be encouraged and excited by the progress made, and the conditions and culture being created through these types of projects. London is ready and hungry for this kind of innovation.

It’s these intelligent mobility projects, within an intelligent mobility framework, that can go a long way towards unlocking the next generation of London’s potential and make it an ever more attractive, inclusive, sustainable and diverse city – a London enabled by intelligent mobility is a force for good not only for our capital, but for the progress of all cities.  

Read Atkins’ full response to Sadiq Khan’s ‘A Better City For All Londoners’ here.

To find out more about intelligent mobility from Atkins, visit our hub.

UK & Europe ,

Richard Ainsley
03 Mar 2017

When we published Future Proofing London in late 2015 we identified that London’s creative industries would play an increasingly important role in the future of London’s economy up to 2050, as the financial services sector declined in importance. Fast forward 14 months and with a Brexit shortly to be triggered, we could be in for a more rapid decline in financial services than we had previously forecast. This means that the need to nurture London’s diverse creative economy will be crucial to London’s future growth.

Much of the talk about London’s future rightly focuses on housing, or in particular the failure to build enough of it to meet London’s needs. This is the most pressing challenge that London faces, and one which frames all other arguments about the future growth of London. There is a temptation to see redevelopment of industrial and commercial land for housing as the answer, but in the rush to develop new homes what we must not forget is that a city will only remain successful where it enables commerce to thrive. The threat to London’s industrial and commercial land is increasing, and in Future Proofing London we recognised this and developed curated clusters as our response to this threat.

Curated clusters are a mixed use urban environment that is ‘curated’ to select the best of what is currently there (be it jobs, character or townscape etc.) whilst being active in attracting new uses and employment growth sectors. We see curated clusters as being intensely used areas, with high quality and vibrant urban environments that are flexible and adaptable to how people will live and work in future. Often areas are conceived and built without considering the long term stewardship of the area, its economy and community. The crucial difference with curated clusters is that they are continually curated to ensure that they remain places that meet London’s evolving challenges. Harnessing digital technology to continually monitor how clusters are performing will help them to adapt quickly as conditions change.

The principles of curated clusters can be applied in a number of ways in London to achieve the objective of a mixed use sustainable area that nurtures creative industries whilst retaining small and medium sized local employers. There are some good examples of where developers are trying to develop schemes that cater for creative industries but these are often on a small scale. London needs to be bolder in order to ensure that new developments, particularly large scale master planned areas, don’t sweep away our existing creative industries. We need to ensure they create thriving places rather than mono-functional dormitories.

To achieve this, a strong land use strategy that protects existing employment uses and incorporates these into a masterplan will be key. The right conditions to support SMEs in key growth sectors (creative industries, niche manufacturing, digital, etc.) will be required at the planning stage. There’s also a need to introduce policies to encourage: new typologies of workspace; new ways of working (for example open workspaces, co-work spaces); affordable space; flexible terms and leases; and ‘meanwhile’ and temporary uses. There’s also a need for a more hands on approach to managing the development once it’s built out, so that a diverse mix of commercial tenants are encouraged with the intent of supporting the creative economy. 

With the review of the London Plan in full swing, now is the time to think creatively about how London manages its future growth for the next 20 years, getting the mix between providing housing and supporting the economy right. Incorporating the principles of curated clusters into this approach could be one of the solutions, and one that we discuss further in our response to Sadiq Khan’s ‘A City For All Londoners’.

UK & Europe ,

Chris Raven
14 Feb 2017

In December 2015 Atkins was commissioned to design, tender and oversee landscape improvements around Ivybridge Primary School in Isleworth, London.

The school's existing external environment consisted of large open areas of tarmac with inaccessible boundaries and overgrown vegetation. Our brief was to design multi-functional landscape features that support learning across the curriculum whilst also providing improved playtime resources for Reception, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

The project has been a great success and so I wanted to share my five step process for achieving the perfect design project:

1. Engage the wider community during the consultation

Gaining comment and inspiration from teachers, pupils, parents and maintenance staff is the best way to ensure any project meets and hopefully exceeds the ambitions of the client.

Rather than asking a simple "What do you want?" we provided a number of consultation questions, such as "What do you currently like/dislike externally" and "What would you like to be able to do in your school grounds?" to prompt deeper thought and provide better insights for us as designers.

2. Interpret aspirations and transform ideas into inspired designs

Inevitably, early consultation comments can include unachievable aspirations. Rather than dismiss these requests or take them literally, we strive to incorporate the sensations or experiential qualities the children are seeking with these elements into our landscape designs.

For example, At Ivybridge Primary School the pupils had requested a bouncy castle and helter skelter. We were able to install a bouncy board belt feature that provided the bouncy castle sensation and replicate the swing and spin sensation of a helter skelter by incorporating a basket swing.

3. Support the client through the decision making process

School communities usually find hand drawn sketches far easier to interpret and understand than 2D CAD models. We developed three initial interpretations of the design brief, including annotated plans, hand drawn sketches and precedent images, while developing detailed indications of costs for different elements and features to make the school’s decision making as easy and informed as possible.

This was also a fantastic opportunity to involve pupils and use the design process to develop their mathematical and comparison skills.

4. Bring the design to life

Where possible we undertake construction during school holidays to minimise disruption to teaching. In the case of Ivybridge Primary School the construction phase was mostly carried out over the summer holidays, achieving completion on schedule, within budget and to a very high standard.

5. Our work is done - time to celebrate!

Projects like this are extremely rewarding and make me proud to be a landscape architect. With the playground completed in November 2016 we’ve had some excellent feedback on how the pupils have been enjoying their new learning and play area, as well as how teachers are finding innovative ways of bringing the curriculum outside of the classroom.

I look forward to my next playground project!

The above images show some of the features we included in the Ivybridge Primary School playground design, including a basket swing for inclusive play, a slope climbing area to make us of previously unused space, outdoor classrooms and a wet play fountain. 


UK & Europe ,

Phil R Davis
13 Feb 2017

It's an exciting time for STEM skills. There is an almost universal acceptance that we have a STEM skills shortage in the UK. Regardless of Brexit, we need to be better at 'growing our own' engineers and future thinkers as they will be critical to maintaining and growing our industrial output and making the Government's Industrial Strategy a reality.

Our 2015 report The Skills Deficit. Consequences and opportunities for UK infrastructure created by the national skills shortage explored the likely impact of prolonged STEM skills shortages in the transport, water, energy and digital infrastructure sectors. Two recent publications have brought this issue into even further focus: Sadiq Khan's ‘A City For All Londoners’ and the Government's Industrial Strategy.

In my role as Atkins' director of technical learning & development I need to be very aware of the factors that affect our corporate level of technical skills. I often use the analogy of a water tank, where the fluid level represents the collective skills of our people at any point in time. The level is increased as the tank is topped up by new entrants, apprentices and graduates; also by training colleagues. The fluid level diminishes when skills perish through technological advances and as colleagues retire. And to extend the analogy further, the tank becomes larger as we move into new capability areas - which may lower the fluid level, unless we are prepared!

So what are we doing to keep our skills tank topped up and how can we support the Mayor's plan?

Showing young people that STEM careers can be fulfilling and rewarding is a great start and our outreach programmes such as Pathways to Engineering and Love Plays seek to do just that in London. Young people can have mixed views about what a STEM career involves and requires from them. Providing contact with our professionals is one of the best ways to encourage, inform and dispel the myths. We have a particularly exciting story to tell about engineering design consultancy, part of the profession that is largely hidden from the public consciousness. So we're really keen to further collaborate with other STEM employers in London, for example through the Tomorrow's Engineers programme, to reach some of the schools as yet unsupported by our sectors.

Two years ago, I visited a school in east London to explore ways of supporting new maths and science teachers. During the visit, I was amazed to discover just how many students were fluent in another language, often from countries in the middle or far-east. In a global consultancy business such as ours, those language skills are highly valued in a professional engineer. My host was also excited to learn of this potential competitive advantage her pupils had in the employment stakes.

When it comes to applying for employment as an apprentice we find that many students are unaware of how to apply - and how to apply themselves to the application process. Our Pathways to Engineering programme aims to level the playing field in schools where STEM students may lack an awareness of how to present themselves to best effect when applying to a professional services employer. With our partner Citizens UK, we're keen to introduce other STEM employers and London schools to the programme and thereby reach out to further, as yet untapped, potential talent.

As a member of the Technician's Apprenticeship Consortium, Atkins has been involved with several Trailblazer apprenticeship programmes, developing new standards in areas related to engineering design consultancy. Presently we are collaborating in the creation of two new design engineering degree apprenticeships. On-the-job, vocational learning is a key aspect of any apprenticeship, so we want the Government to not only encourage recruitment of apprentices, but to make it easier for apprentices to be used on all projects, as their apprenticeship status can sometimes preclude them from working on major infrastructure projects.

We also need to continue to work at retaining skilled professionals as they near the end of their careers, through flexible working arrangements including 'zero hour' contracts that, when used responsibly and applied fairly, can work really well for both parties in these instances. We would like to see proactive support for flexible deployment of all our skilled professionals in public sector work so that we can bring a diverse range of talents to bear on the city's challenges.

Read Atkins’ full response to ‘A City For All Londoners’

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The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) wished to commission collaborative research for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) into the relationship between people and cyber/ information assurance. Particular focus was required on the human and cultural issues relevant to risk and friction points associated with the design of policy and procedure.

Atkins collaborated with University College London (UCL), bringing together industry, commercial and academic expertise to undertake this research.

A set of customised assessments were developed to be undertaken by MOD staff using a specialised tool. This helped to identify an individual’s security understanding within their working environment, to highlight skills and knowledge gaps and focus on behaviours that may pose a risk to security compliance.

Through this research it was identified that current security practice reduces productivity by introducing rules that often create a conflict with the individual’s primary task and are consequently circumvented.

The work conducted represented new and innovative thinking leading to a number of achievable recommendations across the MOD. These would ultimately lead to a new paradigm in the way systems, policies and procedures were developed and implemented.

Research outcomes of the identification of friction, and understanding of what is causing it, can also form the basis for a potentially lower friction solution that operators can comply with.

UK ,

Richmond Education and Enterprise Campus is a 20,000sqm development featuring a new, state-of-the-art further education college, as well as a new free school, a special educational needs (SEN) school and a Technology Hub run by Haymarket Publishing. The regeneration of the existing site at Richmond-upon-Thames College will deliver an integrated, innovative education campus that brings together the best of industry with the best of teaching and learning.

The first phase of building will make a strong, contemporary statement befitting its landmark position on an important gateway into London. It will deliver a variety of core curriculum spaces for business, creative and lifestyle disciplines, including e-enabled spaces for business incubation, innovation and collaboration with local businesses.

Our design proposals reflect the College’s vision for a high quality, contemporary and professional college; the central atrium design provides open, flexible and transparent learning environments to promote inclusivity and encourage collaboration and information exchange. The atrium contains a variety of flexible activity spaces that encourage self-directed and group learning styles, which in turn stimulate learner motivation and improve student performance.

The second phase, a ‘hands-on’ STEM centre, will be available to 3,000 full-time students, providing digital technology, science, engineering and construction labs in addition to a dedicated sporting and fitness suite. Phased demolition of the existing college has begun on site to make way for the development. Our ‘decant and phasing’ strategy ensures the College remains open for business with minimal disruption to teachers and students throughout construction.

Architecture hub



UK ,

TfL invited Atkins to tender for the Deep Tubes Programme Aerial Survey. The specification requested as close to 2cm resolution imagery and survey accuracy as could be achieved, 2cm being a resolution which up until that point had not been possible from a fixed wing aircraft.

Atkins developed the methodology that would deliver 2cm aerial imagery and +/-2cm survey accuracy. The Geomatics team won the contract and successfully captured aerial imagery for the Bakerloo Line, Central Line and parts of the Piccadilly Line at 2cm GSD (Ground Sampled Distance).

UK ,

Limehouse Viaduct is an early stock brick Grade II listed structure originally built to support the London to Blackwall Railway, serving the old docks of East London, and now carrying Docklands Light Railway system.

The viaduct is punctuated by a number of flat metal deck spans which cross a network of public highways and watercourses.

Due to the length of the viaduct structure and differing forms of construction, the project was divided into four packages. Package 1 was completed on time enabling the client to implement the tender process for the site works within the project time scales. Packages 2, 3 & 4 are due to commence following completion of the Package 1 site works.

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