https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2019/07/26/transforming-construction-one-year-on/

Transforming Construction: one year on

It’s been almost a year since the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Transforming Construction Challenge made its first awards from our £172 million investment fund creating the Construction Innovation Hub and the Active Building Centre.

2 Tower cranes on a construction site with high rise buildings and scaffolding

Connecting and sharing

With so much activity generated since the challenge began, I set out to bring everyone involved in our Collaborative Research & Development (CR&D) funding call together in Birmingham to look back on the progress we’ve made, to inspire, connect and share their innovations with the wider Transforming Construction family.

With my train from Sheffield to Birmingham cancelled (not out of the norm) I took a slightly longer route, arriving just in time to see a bustling room full of representatives from across the Transforming Construction challenge network, their monitoring officers and the whole challenge team from across UK Research & Innovation (UKRI).

With coffee served and everyone settled, I sat back to hear directly from those charged with transforming the construction sector. After a short introduction and welcome from Sam Stacey, our Challenge Director, we moved straight on to hearing from the successful CR&D projects.

Monitoring officers for Transforming construction in a workshop all looking at a powerpoint presentation showing Digitally Connected Supply Chain information

Increasing productivity, performance and quality

23 projects were funded in our Increase productivity, performance and quality in UK construction competition totalling £12.5 million investment.

The aim of this competition was to develop technologies, processes and business models that can deliver built assets 50% faster, 33% cheaper, halve lifetime carbon emissions and improve life-long performance. I’m happy to say our projects have set out to do just that.

It would be a difficult task to cover all 23 projects in a single blog post, however invariably certain projects catch the eye of different Innovation Leads, and for me, these were:

Not to underestimate the contribution of all projects, a full list of funded projects can be found here.

SEISMIC

SEISMIC is an ambitious project led by blacc Ltd to use digital technology and a highly skilled team to productionise the delivery of school construction in the UK.

Impact on school construction

Seismic set out to realise the Government’s ambition to increase productivity in the construction sector by looking to change the way primary school projects are designed, procured and finally, constructed increasing capacity in the construction industry and meeting the rising demand for school places.

This has been achieved through the creation of a standardised offsite framework and configurator tool allowing the process for design, procurement and construction to be simplified to a level that sees the costs for a new school fall by 25%.

Using the new standardised frame also means schools can adapt to change in demand or requirement. For example, adding other components such as solar roofs, further adding to the emissions savings already provided by the reduced weight of the standardised modular steel frame.

With schools already being built using these innovations and their standardised steel frame being listed on the Gen 5 procurement framework, SEISMIC consortium partners aspire to use the same innovations to componentise all parts of a building to develop a product family covering different types of buildings, such as housing and healthcare, acting as a catalyst for revolutionising the wider construction industry.

Computer image of a four storey building.

AIMCH

The AIMCH project aims to tackle challenges the housing sector currently face including skills shortages, an ageing workforce, poor productivity, low output and low affordability. The ambition of AIMCH is to transform how we build our homes using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) moving towards advanced digital integrated manufacturing.

Impact on house building

The £6.5 million R&D project is a collaboration between:

AIMCH aim to produce new design tools, advancements in manufacturing and lean site tools thereby improving near-to-market offsite systems and processes. The project will support the sector by delivering homes for the same or less cost than traditional craft methods but built 30% quicker with a 50% reduction in defects.

The consortium as a whole has the potential to impact 35,000 home being built by its partners each year.

After further presentations from the Active Building Centre and the Construction Innovation Hub, I left the event as delegates stayed behind to continue networking and discussing potential collaborations. With the CR&D round 1 funded project’s firmly underway on their journey it was now time to turn sights on our final CR&D competitions launching in the autumn. 

Image of a construction site with scaffolding and two tower cranes, image overlaid with image of a persons hand holding a pen writing on printouts that show (unreadable) text and charts.

What's next?

The second round of our CR&D programme launching in August 2019 will invest up to £36 million across two separate competitions.

The competitions will fund collaborative R&D projects and demonstrators that go beyond the state-of-the-art in improving productivity, quality and performance of the UK construction sector investing in MMC, digital and whole-life performance.

More information will be published on this competition in early August 2019 and can be found via the UKRI ISCF Transforming Construction homepage or by signing up for email notifications below.

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