Turlogh O'Brien was caught saying "it looks like leading to a major crisis in construction", and he reminds me that the Chinese word for crisis is made up of two ideas – "danger" as in unexploded bomb, and "opportunity" as in airport. Granted, the idea that we will have to compete for R&D funding against other industries is, on the face of it, scary. On the other hand, what if the construction industry takes ownership of its own research agenda?
Those who join the Industry Network for Construction Research, the research and development arm of Be, do so because they believe in (i) the importance of research to business improvement, and (ii) collaborating pre-competitively to do things they are unable to do alone. The group won Partnership in Innovation funding as the curtain fell. Its programme, called Avanti (www.avanti-construction.org), is nearing the end of year one in a three- to five-year programme. The aim is to deliver improved project and business performance through the use of information and communication technology to support collaborative working. Avanti has five projects in the pipeline, and the project teams are supported by the International Alliance for Interoperability, Teamwork, and a network of experts. This is not rocket science. Some participants come to the programme because they have experienced benefits from this way of working, and want to deepen their understanding of ICT.
DTI's thematic cross-sectoral R&D programmes look pretty similar to the way the European commission organises its R&D funding. A change of heart by the DTI in response to pressure from the industry seems unlikely. INCR is working on its strategy in an optimistic frame of mind. If you are interested in joining us let me know.
Malcolm Dodds, research director, Be, via email