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Building a healthy outlook

The MRC’s new framework agreements are a timely step towards good value and consistency, says Adrian Gainer

The government’s recent announcement of a rise in health research funding to £1.7 billion per year by 2010-11 is welcome news given the current economic climate. The Medical Research Council (MRC), which is to receive almost £700 million of this funding, is therefore right to introduce a framework of architects that will work on its vast range of projects over the next four years.

The MRC has a responsibility to ensure that projects are successfully delivered and meet the government’s requirements. A framework agreement is a crucial method of ensuring consistency, efficiency in time
and reductions in cost. Of equal importance, frameworks are built to ensure the continuous improvement in quality from project to project. Appointment to the framework was through a rigorous OJEU-compliant selection process that allowed the MRC to ‘hand pick’ practices that meet the requirements of a wide variety of projects.

A number of factors are attributable to achieving this. Cost and project outcomes are a lot more predictable when working with selected practices on frameworks, leading to ongoing savings. Also, because each partner on the framework is assigned a project based on appropriate skill sets, the need for a bidding process on each project is erased, thus reducing the waste of resources.

There is the added advantage of sharing skills and knowledge across framework partners – particularly useful in lab projects. Doing this also avoids many pitfalls and offers a range of expertise to the MRC. Nightingale Associates, for example, has particular expertise in designing laboratories that allow flexibility and adaptability, and also offer a specialist laboratory planning service.

Consistency and efficiency can further be aided by creating a standardisation of approach and design details

By working with selected framework partners, the client can initiate organised communication and feedback processes, which can then be used on future projects, with the potential for continuous improvement and reducing duplication. A framework also allows the formation of a core team within each partner organisation, which contains key individuals nominated throughout the duration of the framework; our selected MRC management and design-and-delivery team, which will work across all of our MRC projects, will ensure an effective use of resources both for us and the MRC.

Consistency and efficiency can further be aided by creating a standardisation of approach and design details. By using such methods, projects have the added benefit of early supplier involvement and a reduction of aborted work, as well as reducing risk.

This programme allows the MRC to develop a meaningful and consistent engagement with the whole supply chain throughout the duration of the framework, resulting in better solutions and better value. In the current climate, that is a valuable asset.

Adrian Gainer is senior director at Nightingale Associates

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