Chief executive of consultant Atkins seeks to secure at least £36m from European Union and national pots

Keith Clarke, the chief executive of Atkins, is leading efforts to extract £36m of European and national funding for research and development in UK construction.

Clarke is chairman of the High Level Group, which is co-ordinated by Constructing Excellence. It held its first meeting two weeks ago, at which it decided its strategy for obtaining the funds.

Clarke said there were two pots of money that the industry wanted to supplement research by universities and individual companies.

The European Union has a reservoir of £45bn that is open to all industries in all member states and will be invested over five years.

On a national level, the DTI-backed Technology and Strategy Board has £350m of annual R&D funding available to 20 sectors across the UK, including construction.

Beth Morgan, research director of Constructing Excellence, said the body had calculated that the construction industry could obtain at least £18m from each pot.

Clarke and the rest of the group, which includes Midas chairman Steve Hindley, Tim Peach, managing director of Taylor Woodrow Construction, and Arup chairman Terry Hill, drew up a list of areas in which they felt R&D was vital.

These included:

  • Improving sustainability and reducing use of energy, water and materials in construction.
  • Meeting client needs by ensuring construction is driven by the client.
  • Improving the industry through technology and mechanical processes in construction.
Clarke said: "It's up to the industry to decide what R&D should be done and to drive the view of its future and the things we think we will need to know in the next five to 10 years.

"The tendency should be away from intellectual and deep problem solving to research and development that seeks to avoid problems. It's about anticipating them."

Currently R&D is driven by universities including Reading, Loughborough, Salford and Imperial College, London.

The group will consult the industry for a couple of months, after which it intends to explain the thinking behind its application.

The R&D board, chaired by Keith Clarke

Steve Hindley Midas
Tim Peach Taylor Woodrow Construction
Paul Lormer Corus
Terry Hill 
Ian Ritchie Ian Ritchie Architects
Andy McNaughton Balfour Beatty
Richard Petrie BAA
Peter Barrett University of Salford
Julia King Imperial College
Elizabeth Whatmore DTI
Bob White Constructing Excellence & Mace