Companies told to work together to tackle productivity problems


Source: Moon Light PhotoStudio/

Construction firms have been told to stop worrying about protecting their own intellectual property as the sector pushes on with improving the productivity and performance of the industry.

Keith Waller, programme director at the Construction Innovation Hub, a government-backed consortium that seeks to apply new tech to construction, said that firms are reluctant to work across the sector on new innovations. 

He said: “We’re not trying to get that intellectual property from you or give it away to anyone else,” adding that innovation relies on firms creating products for standardised systems for the benefit of the whole industry. 

Sam Stacey, challenge director of the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Transforming Construction programme, said that there’s “chaos” in the way the sector goes about its activities. 

“Fundamentally we need to deal with a fragmentation of the industry,” he said.

“We need to collect and share information in the industry a whole lot better than we currently do.”

Waller and Stacey were speaking at Innovate UK’s competition briefing in London last week. 

Innovate UK, part of UKRI — which also set up the Construction Innovation Hub — has invited firms to bid for a share of £36m it is investing in collaborative research projects

Of that funding £26m is set to be awarded to ‘demonstrator’ projects — which can be deployed at scale — that establish improvements in productivity, quality and performance in the UK construction sector.

The rest of the funding will be invested in UK businesses undertaking collaborative research and development projects that work towards the same goal of improving the sector.

Simon Hart, head of construction at Innovate UK, also spoke at the briefing event urging businesses to collaborate with a “good mix” of different organisations if they wanted to win funding. 

He said: “Some of the best projects to have succeeded in the past have a good mix of SME, academia etc - there are no restrictions on who to collaborate with.”

“But having a client on board for the demonstrator projects is a prerequisite for winning funding,” he added.

The competitions close at midday on 6 November and 30 October respectively, with funding to be awarded in December 2019 and January 2020. 

Last year Innovate UK awarded £13.3m in combined funding to 24 collaborative projects across the sector. Projects ranged from industrialised methods for housing construction to augmented reality tools and automated BIM on construction projects.