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What makes a strong partnership?

As part of the new model for Sellafield, Sellafield Ltd is looking for strategic support from the private sector

Trust, shared values, and cultural fit are traits and characteristics that you would expect to find high on the list of anyone looking for a long term relationship.

“They are just as important to us as the technical capability”, said Graeme Ranking, the man charged finding a strategic partner for Sellafield Ltd as part of the organisation’s transition to become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

What else is Sellafield Ltd looking for? “The willingness to create a good, productive and collaborative relationship, strong capability and extensive experience in our industry or even another complex industry,” he said.

“We want an organisation – or organisations – with the expertise to be able to give strategic support and advice to Sellafield Ltd, as well as the experience to be ableto help make things happen on the ground.”

The contract for this ‘procurement first’ for Sellafield Ltd won’t be awarded until early 2017, but early engagement with the market is already under way.

“The difficult part of this process isn’t defining the kind of organisation we want to work with – we want to work with organisations that are driven by the same values and behaviours as us – but in setting clear expectations about what we want them to do and how Sellafield Ltd will evolve into a market-enhanced site licence company,” he added.

“Determining exactly what we want from the market will be the result of various packages of work. Some of the information comes from self-assessment – what are the core strengths and capabilities of our workforce, and where there is more value in ‘buying’ expertise with a view to enhancing our capability for the future? We have been testing that with both internal and external stakeholders. What we have also now started to do is seek the views of the supply chain and wider market.”

We want to work with organisations that are driven by the same values and behaviours as us..

That early engagement has seen Graeme and his team sit down with more than 20 organisations that have experience in key aspects of strategic partnering and who have developed such partnerships at key points in their organisational life.

He said: “The organisations come from our own supply chain and beyond, and represent a wide range of size, capabilities, and specialisms. What we got was a broad range of experiences from organisations that have been in a similar situation to Sellafield Ltd in looking for partners, and those who have experience of being a delivery partner themselves.”

Those organisations included Crossrail, the Olympic Delivery Authority, JCB, Rolls-Royce, the MOD and McLaren. Graeme explained: “Crossrail and the Olympic Delivery Authority shared their experience of starting partnerships from scratch and against hard and fast deadlines – the Olympic project had to be completed in time for the ‘Queen’ to parachute into the Olympic stadium.

“We also spoke with ITM who produce eco-friendly fuels. Here JCB had taken a stake in the company taking a similar role to a strategic partner with a view to enhancing its value. Rolls-Royce’s power and propulsion unit joined forces with Areva and Hinkley Point and were very generous in sharing how they started a partnership and built up trust. “The use of delivery partners is not a nuclear specific issue – McLaren partner with many different organisations every day to make sure that they both have an optimum balance of internal capability and external expertise.”

“We are incredibly grateful for the openness of the organisations that we have spoken with so far and for sharing their experiences. We have learned a lot about what works and just as importantly, what doesn’t and, as a result, have a better idea of our strategic need.”

Sellafield Ltd’s expectations are becoming clearer, but what about the needs and wants of the supply chain? “We know that the supply chain will have its own suggestions and requirements as to how the model might work”, he continued: “We are completely open to that discussion and it will be a key part of our wider market engagement in the autumn