Alliancing within a Public–Private Partnership

It is always wonderful to the get an email that starts with “Dear Associate Prof. Jacobsson, it is a pleasure to accept your manuscript…” This time the email continued with “… entitled “A Rationale for Alliancing within a Public–Private Partnership” in its current form for publication in Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management. A big thanks to Derek Walker at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia for allowing me to take part of their research on partnerships and project alliances.

The paper focuses, as the title indicates, on the rationale behind alliancing within a public-privat partnership, and it is based on a case study that we (Derek and I) conducted whilst I was in Melbourne.


Purpose – This case study was chosen for its rare, if not unique, project procurement strategy. It is, to our knowledge, the only example of a project alliance (PA) being undertaken within a public private partnership (PPP) project delivery approach. It was useful to explore the case study from a strategic perspective to better understand if it is possible to combine a PA within a less collaborative procurement form, such as PPP or design and construct, and to determine if there were any specific prerequisite conditions needed for such an arrangement to be successfully adopted.

Design/methodology/approachA single exploratory case study was undertaken through interviewing seven of the most senior project participant executives for approximately an hour that each had a separate and unique perspective to offer relating to the organisational role they represented in the PA. These interviewees were identified as the most knowledgeable key executives participating in the PA from whom both strategic and operational insights could be gained.

FindingsIt is possible to design a PA approach within a PPP for large and complex infrastructure projects and this can provide a competitive advantage to do so, however, the reasons for doing so should be clear and compelling. Parties to such an arrangement should be prepared to fully engage through adopting full project alliance principles. In such a case as this, the PPP special purpose vehicle takes on the role of ‘project owner’ that normally the public body part of the PPP would normally adopt.

Research limitations/implicationsThis research reports upon a single case study within a specific project delivery culture that has extensive experience of PAs. Demonstrated positive project outcomes would not be likely to be more generally repeatable across the engineering infrastructure sector unless parties engaged within such a PA had not already experienced and understood outcomes resulting from such a close collaboration.

Practical implicationsThis research has implications for project participants bidding for PPP projects as well as others using a design and construct tending approach. It offers a potential competitive advantage because it demonstrates and explains how choices may be expanded beyond a simple single project procurement strategy approach.