Amec, Bovis Lend Lease, Hochtief and Skanska invest £1.5m to set up ambitious one-stop construction portal.

Four international construction and engineering companies are launching the industry’s first global business-to-business on-line exchange.

Amec, Bovis Lend Lease, Skanska, Hochtief and its US subsidiary Turner, have already invested a total of £1.5m in the scheme. It will allow project teams to order goods and services, store and exchange documents and rent software.

Laing, Balfour Beatty and Kvaerner, which have been involved in plans to launch a UK portal with Bovis and Amec, are considering joining the global scheme. Meanwhile, the five contractors are continuing with plans to set up a UK portal, which could form the UK arm of the global venture. Exactly how the structure of this would work, in terms of finance and operation, is unclear.

The chief executive officers of the four founders of the global exchange said: “We are confident that this venture will be a success because we have the critical mass, an incentive and ability to take a long-term focus and a detailed understanding of the industry chain.”

The exchange will be launched in the fourth quarter of this year and is expected to begin quickly7 to show a return. An Amec spokesman said: “We have all the markets in the world covered and expect the venture to contribute profits within two years.”

He added: “This is unique to our industry but it is similar to what was done in the car industry when leading manufacturers linked their suppliers and factories to reduce both costs and supply-chain bottlenecks.”

The business, called Aecventure, will be a stand-alone company with its own management and is seeking a chief executive officer.

Although the in-house IT departments of the four founders were heavily involved in setting up the scheme, a range of IT companies from around the world is expected to be involved in the future. Accountant Ernst and Young is believed to have been involved in the UK.

The exchange will provide access to software packages on a rental basis, including CAD applications, and project management and on-line collaboration packages.

The DETR is to commission a report on e-business in construction based on sites, services, software and individual company experience.