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Five project management stories you shouldn’t have missed in September

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Boris’s ‘£15bn’ bridge to Ireland

With all the political upheaval in September, it would have been easy to forget prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to build a bridge from the Scottish mainland to the outskirts of Belfast. Boris has form with ambitious bridge projects – his proposed garden bridge when he was Mayor of London failed to get off the ground (though it still managed to cost around £53m).

While speaking to schoolchildren on a visit to the lighthouse tender NLV Pharos, the prime minister said that the project “would only cost about £15bn.” This was met by some criticism from people with running large-scale infrastructure projects, who argued that it was unwise to throw out figures when you haven’t done a full assessment of what the project is setting out to do.

Chris Wise, the engineering director of the Millennium Bridge, told The Guardian: “If everything from the Olympics to HS2 are anything to go by, to quote the number and the price of any of these publicly funded projects this early without a design, in my view, is bonkers.”

Seaham restoration project gets £1.6m

Seaham, a historic coastal town in County Durham, is in need of regeneration. Once a thriving seaside resort with a distinctive architectural character, it’s now classified as ‘at risk’ by Historic England – buildings lie empty and in disrepair, and historic features have been lost.

Durham County Council proposed a three-year project to restore Seaham to its former glory. It involves a combination of building improvement grants for property owners and tenants, improvements to paving and public spaces and training to create more heritage builders. Now the project has the backing of the National Lottery, which has provided £1.6m in funding. Good news for Seaham.

RWE throws itself into huge sustainability spend

German utility company RWE has committed to a project pipeline of renewable energy sources, creating 18 gigawatts (GW) of green energy. The company has committed to spend at least €1.5bn a year on sustainable energy projects, rising to €3bn in partnership with other organisations.

Of the 18 GW produced by the project, 10 will be produced in the United States, with the other eight in Europe. It’s part of RWE’s ongoing project to become carbon neutral by 2040 – it’s currently the biggest CO2 producer in Europe. With this timetable of projects, it is now also Europe’s third largest renewables group.

New Zealand kicks off Antarctica redevelopment project

The New Zealand government is looking to put together a development crew to restore its research station in Antarctica. The Scott Base was originally built in the 1980s, and currently consists of 12 structures The New Zealand government wants to replace it with three interconnected buildings and a helicopter hangar. The environment, of course, poses many challenges for the project.

"We understand that very few people have been to Antarctica,” senior project manager, Simon Shelton, said. “So we want to work with the industry to familiarise them with the environment, show them Scott Base and help them understand any perceived commercial risk."

Government launches ‘world’s largest genetics project’ to help tackle disease

The UK government announced a new £200m whole genome sequencing project aimed at learning more about the causes of deadly diseases. The project, in partnership with pharmaceutical companies, will sequence the genetic code of 500,000 volunteers.

The project fits in with the government’s aim to create a more predictive and personalised healthcare system in the future, with a commitment to carrying out 5m DNA analyses by 2024.

Funding has come from several sources, including UK Research and Innovation, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, Wellcome and pharmaceutical companies Amgen, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson.

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Brought to you by Project journal.

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