Creating a buzz in Milan


The Milan Expo 2015 provided an opportunity for the Government to showcase Great Britain & Northern Ireland as a leading place to do business. The UK’s participation was led by UK Trade & Investment (now part of the Department for International Trade). UK SBS provided the procurement and commercial expertise behind the design, build, events management, maintenance and decommissioning of the UK Pavilion for the Milan Expo 2015.

Aims of the UK Pavilion

The client wanted to fulfil their ambition to create a visitor experience to showcase British innovation, creativity and global leadership on the World Expo stage.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and UKTI needed a platform to launch the Grown in Britain Global Business programme with the aim of increasing international trade relationships and attracting new investment. A core objective of this programme is to deliver £1billion benefit to the UK economy.

The UK Pavilion was a key enabler for achieving these objectives. Stakeholder interest was high and the planned programme of events high profile. The primary objective of UK SBS procurement was to ensure that the expectations of the client were met or exceeded within the available timescales and budget, while ensuring all activities were completed in compliance with the Public Contract Regulations, Expo 2015 guidelines and local legislation.

Creating strong foundations for the Hive

Our Major Projects team engaged and integrated with UKTI's Expo team during initial planning to ensure the scope of requirements, challenges and stakeholder expectations were fully understood. The procurement strategy took a project management approach and was designed to deliver the best outcomes within the challenging timescales and available budget. The strategy:

  • Defined the distinct work streams around the five key outcomes. The procurement lead worked closely with the client to map the activities and resources needed to deliver each
  • Created a statement of requirements focused on the outcomes
  • Identified bespoke commercial options for each work stream and the opportunities provided by existing agreements to improve turnaround times and deliver value for money

Responding to complex and evolving requirements

By embedding with the client team early and undertaking extensive market engagement, the procurement team had a full understanding of the challenges and risks at each stage of the project. Early identification enabled the procurement lead to design procurement solutions that accounted for:

  • Legal and translation needs to comply with Expo guidelines and Italian legislation for the design and construction phase
  • Multi-lingual resourcing to provide an inclusive visitor experience for a diverse international audience
  • Evolving project needs such as a higher volume of delegates, increased events programme and changes to the decommissioning plan

Bringing the Hive home for the UK to experience

The success of the UK Pavilion prompted a change to the original decommissioning plan. The challenge for the team was to deliver on these ambitions through contract negotiation with the main contractor to undertake the complex task of dismantling, packaging and transportation of the 30 ton structure from Milan to the UK.

Delivering for UK business

The UK Pavilion at Milan Expo 2015 won multiple awards, including the Expo’s gold medal for best architecture and landscape design, and continues to be recognised for its innovative design and concept. The project is recognised for delivering over £800m of its projected £1bn benefit to UK business in its first 6 months. UK SBS' procurement and commercial support provided an award-winning platform that enabled the client to exceed their goals on time and under budget. The UK Pavilion:

  • Provided UKTI with an award-winning platform to launch the ‘Grown in Britain’ Global Business Programme and an exceptional visitor experience to host high profile political and industry visitors. The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, visited the UK Pavilion and hosted a roundtable discussion with 12 leading investors.
  • Provided an exceptional visitor experience that attracted 3.3m visitors over the 6-month period, exceeding the predicted 1 million.
  • Hosted over 800 UK companies that participated in the GREAT weeks in Milan, showcasing the best of UK food and drink, agri-technology, healthcare, life sciences, creative industries, and science and innovation.
  • Attracted 450 million viewers across the world's media and online


The Hive at night, UKTI © Crown Copyright

Multi award winning design

The UK Pavilion has 20 design and construction awards so far. Find out more

Finalist in 2016 Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) Awards for 'International Procurement of the Year 2016'

The judging panel said:

“This entry helped bring in £800m of investment, managed to make £2m hard savings, under budget in a tight timescale. It showed expertise and creativity in its approach.”