Two years on from the launch of the Sector Deal for Construction, the latest data from the ONS shows R&D spending by the construction industry has risen by 30.3%*. Sam Stacey of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) believes the Sector Deal has given construction companies the confidence to invest in innovation that will produce better value for money and higher quality.
Total construction sector spending on R&D rose to £417m last year, an increase of £43m from the £374m recorded a year earlier, according to ONS data released on 20th November. Sam Stacey believes these figures indicate the industry has embraced the value of R&D and will exceed the £250m spend it pledged to match government’s £170m investment through the Transforming Construction Programme.
As part of the Sector Deal, the Government committed to investing up to £170m through the Transforming Construction Programme, to develop and commercialise the digital and offsite manufacturing technologies to produce safe, energy efficient buildings that perform better throughout their life cycle. The programme has already started seeing the projects it has funded to achieve ambitious but realistic targets: buildings are being constructed 50% faster, 33% cheaper and with 50% lower lifetime carbon emissions.
Examples of innovation in architecture, engineering and construction include Eva Magnisali, the founder of DataForm Lab, who has successfully demonstrated the impact integrating industrial robotics can have in these industries. Her work demonstrates the essential part robotics can play in offsite manufacturing processes, but also proves how the technology makes construction projects more collaborative, productive and ultimately simpler.
An example of a company showing resilience during the pandemic includes SaaS platform provider of Building Information Modelling (BIM) solutions 3D Repo, which took on two of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of BIM, at a time when the construction industry needed it the most – namely how to best support remote working and how to up-skill the industry through training. Combining its own money with investment from Innovate UK’s Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption Fund, the team was able to turn its prototype into a production-ready, open source solution for the industry.
Sam Stacey, Director of the Transforming Construction Challenge, UKRI, said: “The rise in research and development in the construction industry over the past two years is testament to the aims of the Transforming Construction challenge in giving companies the confidence to invest in digital building design, new technologies and offsite manufacturing, that will ultimately deliver quality, energy-efficient homes while providing value for money.
“The UKRI’s Transforming Construction Challenge sets out a framework of improvement based on common specifications, building components, digital standards, plus an optimised set of active building technologies to eliminate carbon emissions. This has resulted in innovators thriving by drawing on their expertise in manufacturing techniques, artificial intelligence and sensor-based controls. The pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges for the construction industry, but evidence suggests there has been no loss of momentum. Companies have found their use of novel digital and offsite techniques have made them more resilient in the face of any COVID restrictions.”
* ONS Data: Increases in R&D in Construction Industry:
Total for both years 1.169 x 1.115 = 1.303