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Construction innovation: does it matter?

Yes. Construction innovation is becoming essential for transformation of the UK industry, delivering value throughout the supply chain and delighting the end customer with the final outcome. In times of rapidly changing markets, technologies and communications, construction firms have become increasingly reliant upon innovations and improvement. The focus of attention on innovation will improve the reputation of the industry by increasing the performance of the end customer businesses and their customers who use the assets. As individuals, we have a common expectation that we want more when we purchase something the second time, and we look for how this will improve our own experience (e.g. a more fuel conservative car, or a TV with more features). Innovation is an important ingredient to meet our expectations and to improve the way we live.

Can UK business innovate and collaborate?

The UK is a hot-bed for innovation.  Across industry we are seeing business congregate around geographical and virtual hubs to share research resource and address big issues that individually cannot be addressed alone.  MIRA in the Midlands has all the key vehicle manufactures looking at Intelligent Mobility, Manchester focus on energy and Edinburgh seems to have a technology revolution occurring. The construction industry has made significant steps forward with the work at Cambridge University Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, by forming a group that brings together industry with technology to look at how infrastructure can become more intelligent. Business is becoming more interested in these collaborative relationships. For those companies that are committed to accelerating innovation to market the research end of the innovation spectrum is allowing challenges to be shared and new ideas to immerge. Collaborators are then evolve the innovation that then can be taken to market in a more robust and cost effective approach.

Innovation networks delivering better value outcomes

The network of universities, Catapults and grant funding connected by the Knowledge Transfer Network is allowing business to embrace innovation and provide more high-value services that are changing the perception of the industries innovation capability. We are seeing unprecedented investment and attention by Government, customers and business to advance innovation capability to deliver new business outcomes that will redefine collaborative relationships across the supply chain, increase repeat business with customers and demonstrate that our industry is not a commodity and cannot be procured solely on price.  What we deliver is complex and requires highly skilled people to look at delivering the best solution. An industry that has more of an integrated supply chain that repeatedly works together, given the right environment will invest in innovation and deliver value to customers.  In the next 10 years we will see customers embrace and recognise to achieve better delivery they will allow the supply chain to organise in a way so they can repeatedly work together reducing waste in the supply chain, increasing performance and allowing the industry to deliver more for less.

Evolution through construction innovation to demonstrate a high performing sector

It is important we evolve and as a group of businesses lead change in our sector by incorporating innovation in our solutions.  This includes those who procure and those who deliver.  If we want to change traditional characteristics that inhibit performance and leave the end customer disillusioned with what they have received, we need to use innovation as an accelerator of change, to make a difference to the end result we deliver.  We have got to think of ways of accelerating innovations from the initial ideas to the delivery of the innovation in the market and we all have a role to play.  An industry that can demonstrate high innovation capability will be seen as high value, attract investment and continue to grow. This approach will attract investment demonstrating the sector has good return on investment potential.  For those who do want to capitalise on the sector, we believe the revolution that will happen, will drastically change the market for the better with new solutions developed that will inspire other sector business looking favourably and supporting our success.

The role of Constructing Excellence in accelerating construction innovation

Innovation is a fundamental to the Constructing Excellence members and that is why we are investing in a four year programme with UCL to advance the industries understanding around the benefits of inter-business innovation relationships. There is a lot we can learn from each other around business-to-business innovation. The programme will look at how innovation is encouraged to market, what are the barriers stopping the industry from innovating and how do we remove these barriers through understanding value, how to incentive business decisions, incorporate innovation in procurement, understand how to recognise the businesses that are investing how you get the best from your partners through better relationships. If you would like to find out more or be a part of this programme, please contact Tim Embley, Innovation and Knowledge Manager at Costain (tim.embley@costain.com) or Natalya Sergeeva (n.sergeeva@ucl.ac.uk), Lecturer in the Management of Projects, at UCL.

This is a guest post by Tim Embley and Natalya Sergeeva.