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A rationale for alliancing within a public-private partnership

Derek Walker (School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Mattias Jacobsson (Umeå School of Business and Economics, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 17 November 2014




This case study was chosen for its rare, if not unique, project procurement strategy. It is, to the authors’ knowledge, the only example of a project alliance (PA) being undertaken within a public-private partnership (PPP) project delivery approach. The purpose of this paper is 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 (D&C), and to determine if there were any specific prerequisite conditions needed for such an arrangement to be successfully adopted.


A 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.


It 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 PA 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/implications

This 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 implications

This research has implications for project participants bidding for PPP projects as well as others using a D&C 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.

Social implications

Many PPP and PA infrastructure projects are delivered to provide community benefit. This paper provides a way to improve the project delivery process and thus improving value to the community.


The paper makes three contributions. Primarily, it pioneers analysis of a PA within a PPP. Second, it provides important insights into the reasons and emergence of this phenomenon. Finally, it provides an understanding of this how this novel form of early contractor involvement with a PPP special purpose ownership vehicle that combines competition and collaboration may function operationally.



The research this paper is based on, and is supported by a Project Management Institute (PMI) research grant in conjunction with an Australian ARC grant.


Walker, D. and Jacobsson, M. (2014), "A rationale for alliancing within a public-private partnership", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 648-673.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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