Why don’t UK contractors work abroad any more?

The British engineers who led the building of the industrial age played a prominent role in Danny Boyle’s Olympics opening ceremony. But his inclusion of those globe-trotting Victorians belies the fact that, with a few notable exceptions, UK contractors have almost completely disappeared from the world stage in the last 20 years, retreating home to the safety of familiar contracts and supply chains and lavish, low-risk PFI building programmes. They have remained resolutely domestic even after four years of recession, the dwindling of those PFI programmes and despite booming markets around the world – where, according to UK Trade & Investment, clients are crying out for British expertise. So what are they scared of? And why don’t any of the risks of overseas contracting seem to faze their European rivals? For Construction Manager’s October cover feature, I spoke to contractors of varying levels of adventurousness, and one very baffled German who can’t understand why they’d squander the advantages of language, legal systems and brand recognition bequeathed by those Victorian ancestors.

Author: Katie Puckett

I am an experienced journalist, copywriter and editor who has covered the built environment for nearly 20 years. I’ve interviewed thousands of senior executives, politicians and experts in many fields and travelled to report on stories throughout Europe, the US, the Gulf states and India. My articles have appeared in many business and professional titles including Building, Estates Gazette, Inside Housing, the Bartlett Review, Insurance Times and Lloyd’s Market. I am co-author, with architect Bill Gething, of Design for Climate Change, published by RIBA, and I launched and edit The Possible, a thought leadership magazine for global engineering firm WSP. I'm also co-founder of Wordmule, an editorial studio that specialises in buildings and cities.

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