It’s hard to underestimate the significance of the Construction Industry Sector Deal. There’s a very clear message from government - invest to transform
It’s hard to underestimate the significance of the Construction Industry Sector Deal announced last month by government as part of the long-awaited productivity booting Industrial Strategy. Really; it is huge.
Bearing in mind that this strategy is designed to spearhead the UK’s vital future post-Brexit economic path, it is good to see through much hard work and investment in time and energy from both policy and industry colleagues construction now sits alongside life sciences, automotive and artificial intelligence as one of just four critical sectors being primed for action and acceleration. No pressure there then…we are on the start line.
No pressure there then…we are on the start line
Of course, the Industrial Strategy followed on the government’s unprecedented Autumn Statement commitment of £170m for a new “Transforming Construction” Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund investment. This cash sits alongside another £34m targeted at skills development and a stated presumption towards prefabrication across public infrastructure investment by 2019.
There is a very clear message being sent by government to the industry. Construction’s key contribution and 3.1m employees makes it critical to the UK’s future prosperity – but as a sector it must get more productive, more efficient and deliver better performing assets and value to its customers. As the Sector Deal says, it has to invest to transform.
Digital technology and innovative thinking underpins this much-needed transformation. Thus the £5.4m commitment to kickstart the ambition with a new Centre for Digital Built Britain based in the University of Cambridge is central to the plan. The facility is a fundamental foundation for the multi-million pound public and private investment that will drive construction into a new era of digital tools, advance manufacturing and offsite production plus a new focus on through life asset performance as described in the Industrial Strategy.
As a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge, the centre will provide the knowledge and leadership to support transformation. It will both develop and facilitate widespread adoption of digital technologies – and the culture that supports it - to better plan, build, maintain and operate the infrastructure assets of the future.
Of course the proof of the pudding is always in the eating – and it is fair to say that as an industry we have some way to go as we embark on the journey. Having steered the industry through its five-year journey towards BIM Level 2 adoption, I am only too aware of the challenge that change presents to such as established, traditional and low margin sector.
Construction’s key contribution and 3.1m employees makes it critical to the UK’s future prosperity – but as a sector it must get more productive
But change we must. The new centre at Cambridge and the Sector Deal funding provides a unique opportunity for businesses across the supply chain to build on the start made by the BIM Level 2 programme and start to leverage the power of sensors, data analytics and smart systems technologies as they become ubiquitously embedded in future building and infrastructure projects.
As the deal makes clear, success in the future is about procuring for better value, seeking and driving forward industry-led innovation and building the skills for a future modern digitally enhanced industry. It is about digitising the entire life-cycle of built assets to boost capacity, reduce costs, improve whole-life performance and cut carbon emissions.
But fundamentally construction must transform to ensure we build the right assets and improve the way our built assets actually deliver social services to citizens. In a post Brexit world, our sector has to ensure that every pound of public money delivers maximum value to society. And that’s the big challenge we must now meet.