Behaviours & Psychology, Business Models and Collaborative Innovation – Research, innovation & skills needed to achieve our vision

Our Autumn Members Forum took place on 12 September at the London Offices Burges Salmon focussed on the research, innovation and skills needed to achieve our vision.  The room was buzzing as we debated what change was needed and how the science and research base can help deliver against our vision.

The day was kicked off by Don Ward giving an update on the latest developments within the movement, including a core focus on unlocking the value of digital and manufacturing and welcomed some of our first-time attendees.  Colm Quinn then shared the latest developments on our KPI portal, which will be ready for members for beta testing next month.

Alison Nicholl then updated members on how the Constructing Excellence Theme Groups are aligning to deliver against the Constructing Excellence Vision.  Our theme groups are such an important part and really help drive the movement.

Jon de Souza, Chair of the Research, Innovation & Skills Theme Group (formerly CEHE) provided an analysis of the work that the group has done in brokering linkages between the Higher Education community and the construction industry.  With the dual impact of systemic problems in our industry and significant investment in innovation and skills through the Construction Sector Deal, there is a real need to focus our efforts in this area.

The group is now focussing on how the research and academic communities can interact with industry to advance the research, innovation and skills required to deliver the Constructing Excellence Vision of ‘transforming disrupting the industry delivery processes to transform performance.  The group asked members to identify where further research, innovation and skills were needed to help deliver positive disruption.

The key areas were:

Behaviours & Psychology
Many of the problems affecting the construction industry are driven by cultures and behaviours.  From standardisation of contract and procurement processes to truly procuring for value it all boils down to engendering a culture of respect across the entire industry.  Without this shift in mindsets, digital collaboration can never fully deliver its benefits and we will continue as an industry to underperform and struggle to attract and retain talent.

The group proposed to research what is happening in other countries and industry sectors which have more open and transparent cultures and behaviours.  It was agreed that we needed to look outside the sector, bringing in experts and academics from other disciplines to delve deep into this issue.

Business Models
Are 1-2% margins really sustainability?  How can the industry really embrace digital technology and manufacturing principles to drive a new, fairer and more sustainable business models.

The group proposed working with business schools to look at the benefits and risks associated with new business models.  Also identifying more tangible examples of new models to enable clients to base decisions on empirical evidence.

Innovation at an industry level
The construction sector is described as having low rates of innovation.  However, innovation happens at a project level rather than through central R&D departments and is therefore difficult to capture and share and does not deliver on its full potential.  The group cited initiative such as the Francis Crick Institute where industry-wide innovation can happen.  As an industry we collectively invest in skills through CITB, and we have worked collectively to improve health and safety across the sector and how can this be applied to innovation.  The need for a cultural change at all levels within the industry to make sharing the norm was acknowledged.

The group discussed the challenge of effective knowledge sharing between organisations, including government and academia.  Not just at the end of projects but in real-time, including live capture of project knowledge in a dynamic way.  This will be a long-term activity for the group, which is collaborating with the Designing Buildings Wiki Construction Knowledge Task Group.

Next steps
The group are planning a workshop in early 2019 bringing together industry and academic experts from within and outside construction specialisms to explore what research, innovation and skills are needed to drive change around behaviours and psychology across the sector.  This will be followed by a session on business models later in the year.  The core group will be meeting in the meantime to shape these workshops and ensure maximum exposure.

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