Wednesday 12 July 2023

Interview with Ed Robinson, Turner & Townsend

  • News Article
  • DSEI
  • Q&A
Interview with Ed Robinson, Turner & Townsend

Q: What is the key challenge that your panel will be addressing?

A: The panel is about how we transform programme performance in defence. We would all agree that performance is about what you can deliver in the time frame that is required, whilst still recognising that cost matters and value needs to be delivered. In recent decades transformation has by and large been viewed as successful where greater performance has been driven, accepting a trade off in time and cost where that has been achieved.

But looking at the geopolitical landscape today, and the evolving and emerging threats we face, it is clear that focus no longer applies. Achieving pace in the response is critical and we must see this shape how the major programmes within AUKUS or GCAP are set up.


Q: If time has become the critical element, where do you think the trade-off will be?

A: It’s about where you’re prepared to make trades on performance, noting that the schedule can’t slip. You’ve got to deliver against that, and you’ve still got to deliver a high level of performance capability, but the outcome might not be as exquisite as we’ve sometimes sought.

A trade-off on cost is far harder to achieve, principally because the cost envelope is the cost envelope. All economies are in interesting positions post the pandemic. Rising inflation, exchange rates, all of these present huge challenges to anyone involved in programme delivery.


Q: Is there a particular takeaway that people can expect to hear when attending your panel?

A: The programmes the defence sector is engaged on delivering are among the most complex and sophisticated endeavours that humankind ventures upon. But if we work more collaboratively, more transparently and more deeply partnered right across industry then, there is no limits to what we can deliver.

I also think that this combination of diversity and the many organisations working towards a single purpose is hugely empowering and motivating for people. This is particularly important because one of the challenges that everyone faces is having the right people and skills.

I highlight that an input led approach - “I need someone to sit in this seat and do this single job” - does not help us when we have a shortage of people and skills. That’s the point about being agile with the people we have. They can be utilised in a far more efficient way if we get clever about setting and defining the outputs sought from a programme and the strategic workforce planning, that sits in a far wider people ecosystem with myriad demands, that will support this. That will help get us to achieving the outputs necessary.

Hopefully the panel audience will see how different organisations that have very strong relationships can come together. Beyond getting the strategy right and investing in this at the get-go of a major programme, working together more deeply, with greater trust, transparency and collaboration, is how we transform programme performance.


Q: How can DSEI contribute to achieving that collaboration?

A: Turner & Townsend are at DSEI because everyone that is anyone in defence will be there. We’re not selling platforms, we bring great people, tools and systems to help clients deliver programmes.  At DSEI the people delivering those capability programmes globally, are all there, interacting and engaging, so it’s an incredibly powerful way to use the time one has in one place, in one week, and to do it face-to-face. I do believe that being present in person is the cornerstone to building a successful relationship and establishing trust; from this, great things can happen.




Author Details
Ed Robinson Director Turner & Townsend

Ed Robinson is Turner & Townsend’s Global Defence Lead with over 30 years’ sector experience. He joined the business in 2016, following 23-years as a Royal Engineer officer where, when not in Whitehall or involved with capability programme delivery, he was privileged to lead commando, bomb disposal and Gurkha sappers. Ed has been at the heart of major delivery partnerships (Paragon, Equinox and Unity) with the UK’s MOD and is the architect of our wider growth into defence. He is a member of our Global Infrastructure Board and leads our Global Defence Sector, spanning UK, Australia and North American markets.

Ed is passionate about defence and global affairs; he focusses on the contribution we can make to a stable and secure environment from which our societies prosper. Ed is finely attuned to how our expertise drives value and performance on mega scale complex programmes. A Fellow Institution of Royal Engineers, BSc Engineering from Durham and MA Defence Studies from King’s College London Universities, Ed is a member of defence and space working groups at pre-eminent strategic think tanks and Chairs our Military Network. He championed our signing the Armed Forces Covenant in 2018, securing the UK MOD’s Gold Employer Recognition scheme award in 2021, becoming a SSAFA Corporate Friend and actively promotes the hiring of veterans.

Related Content

Supported By


ministry of defence

supported by

uk defence and security exports