Reach out to your local university

Much has been written about the government’s new sector strategy Construction 2025 published in July. The summary document is a good clear read and well worth a few minutes to review. To be honest, we’ve seen much of it before, and that’s good, we’ve known how the sector needs to improve for years and we need some continuity in driving forward towards that vision.

Perhaps the main break-through is that this is one of a series of sector strategies from HMG, others include nuclear, automotive (of course), aerospace, professional and business services, agriculture, offshore wind. For the first time this is explicit recognition that construction is up there as a key strategic sector for growth, both in its own right and as an enabler of success in those other sectors, most of whom are important customers of built environment in its different forms.

Another factor which the other strategies have in common is that they came with announcements about big government investment in joint government-industry research programmes. Ours was notably silent on this, and therein lies a fundamental weakness. The other sectors feature stand-out big players, e.g. Rolls Royce, who have their own big R&D programmes and which the government can leverage with matching funding. Where are the equivalent programmes in our sector? Not within the sector, but at places like BRE and in our universities.

As Constructing Excellence members found at a recent meeting with 20 universities, universities in our sector are facing research funding cuts due to the end of big funded programmes, reduced student numbers due to fees, and competition from these other well-funded sectors. Built environment departments need our help, both to make the case for government research programmes, and to build stronger links between the sector’s leading edge players in the contracting and consulting communities.

So, who is your local university, and have you made contact? Can you reach out, learn what their issues are, learn about their latest research and harvest some ideas for your business, or support them in their teaching or research programmes by providing in-kind support. Everyone should connect to their local university, they are a gold-mine if you can work together.

(This article first appeared on