In the two years since the launch of the Sector Deal for Construction, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that R&D spending in the construction industry has risen by 30%. 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.
The total spending in the construction sector on R&D rose to a massive £417 million last year, an increase from £374 million the year before. According to ONS data released last month, Mr Stacey believes these new figures indicate that the industry has embraced the value of R&D.
As part of the Sector Deal, the UK Government has committed to investing up to £170 million via the Transforming Construction Programme in order to develop and commercialise the digital and offsite manufacturing technology needed to produce safe, energy efficient buildings which perform better throughout their life cycle. The programme has already started seeing projects it has funded achieve ambitious, yet 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.
Sam Stacey, Director of the Transforming Construction Challenge, UKRI, says: “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.”
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