Research organisations says single government body must co-ordinate industry R&D

The government must invest more in research and development for the construction industry or risk losing work to other countries, MPs were warned yesterday.

BRE's Innovation Park
BRE's Innovation Park in Watford

Research organisations told a parliamentary select committee the decline in government support for R&D in the industry was having “dire” consequences.

The bodies, including the Building Research Establishment (BRE), Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) and Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) also called for a single government organisation to be responsible for construction.

The groups told MPs there had been a sharp drop in the number of research reports published following a “falling away” of government funding in the last decade.

New titles published by the industry’s research and technology organisations were down by 63% in 2006 compared to the previous five years, they said.

CIRIA chief executive Bill Healy said he had been unable to find funding for a report into flood defences, even in the wake of the summer floods.

The organisations said extra money should come from construction-generated government levies such as the carbon tax, aggregates levy and landfill tax credits, which together generate £169m.

BSRIA chief executive Andrew Eastwell said: “Some of that trickles down to the industry but not in any way that means we can move forward effectively.”

The organisations also stepped up calls for a single government body to deal with construction issues.

Healy said: “The interest in construction is now spread across so may departments there is no wherewithal to respond to the problem in a meaningful way.”

BRE chief executive Martin Wyatt said the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) should be built up as a “champion of construction” that could make sure money was spent wisely.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB), which also gave evidence to the committee, backed the call for government consolidation and said there should be a dedicated construction minister.

The meeting was part of an ongoing inquiry into the construction industry by the Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee.