Back in August 2019 I revealed our £36 million R&D competition to transform construction. It was the largest government investment in construction innovation for a generation but unless the industry responded, it could be the last…
Would there be enough talented tech companies ready to disrupt in this £386 billion industry? Was the sector ready to transform?
Commitment to whole life value
The construction sector has a problem: cheapness. Throughout the industry, cheapness, not value is systemic.
Commercial priorities drive a race to the bottom for the lowest cost option. With lowest costs comes higher energy consumption, shortened lifespan and increased maintenance. Cheapness always costs more in the end.
The Transforming Construction programme is a £170 million programme to transform the way construction operates though commitment to whole-life value.
By demanding high-performance, platform-based buildings government can use the power of its wallet to drive change. Backed by the Sector Deal and the Construction Leadership Council, the winning projects from this R&D investment will accelerate the UK's construction sector. A sector that employs over 3 million people.
Throughout the Autumn my team toured Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff, London and Manchester promoting £36 million of R&D funding competitions for both small and large projects.
We met hundreds of diverse SME's, startups, tech innovators and researchers. We heard many fantastic ideas and helped to broker collaborations and partnerships.
The end result was startling: 160 applications were received seeking £131 million - nearly 4 times higher than the available funding! This was an unprecedented level of interest from an industry that in 2016 was told it must “Modernise or Die”
So what have we seen and who will the winners be?
New rules, efficient ways of working together
Digital Twins are high-resolution, digital models of the real world. Digital Twins of infrastructure help designers, users and operators collaborate to embed whole-life value into the real physical asset.
The digital environment breaks down the traditional barriers of distance and time. Some of the winning projects will be pushing the boundaries of Digital Twins.
Automate the dull stuff
Artificial Intelligence (AI) projects were among the winning applications in the CR&D competition. AI is great with repetitive, data-heavy tasks. Give enough data and it will surpass human agility.
Many were applying machine learning techniques to solve problems in construction. Machine Learning develops its own rules based upon analysis of data; it doesn’t need a human-centric rule set. Feed it with enough data and it will find its own solution to a problem.
So what sort of repetitive, data-heavy tasks exist on a construction project?
Well, as it turns out, a lot: planning, contracts and payments, design, logistics and assurance. The winning projects will be demonstrating new ways of working for the industry.
By freeing up the human-intelligence from the data-heavy tasks, we can release industry productivity for the intuitive human-centric decisions. Imagine how much faster projects would go if payments were automated? Our winners will automate the dull stuff.
Show it off
Our industry thrives on experience. It is historically risk-averse so when we can see an example it builds confidence that it can be replicated.
We need to learn how to show off a good project and the demonstrator competitions winners will do just that. There will be demonstrations of platform based designs for infrastructure, robotic manufacturing and DfMA for housing.
We will see new business models tested and proven on real-world projects. All of the demonstrators and CR&D projects are going to push the boundaries of construction productivity, efficiency and quality. All at a time when the UK faces significant challenges for delivery of our homes, schools, railways and roads.
The winning projects from the Transforming Construction ISCF challenge will soon be made public.
Watch this space for details!
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You can go to the Innovate UK website