Construction event highlights innovation and collaboration
A joint event which sought to boost opportunities for the construction sector north of the border has been hailed as a huge success.
Hosted by the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and InnovateUK, yesterday’s event was designed to communicate and provide access to £6 million of targeted investment in a streamlined and efficient manner.
The event at the IET Teacher Building in Glasgow follows the launch of a formal partnership between the two organisations.
Bill McBride, the CSIC’S chairman, said their collaborative aim is to “support and connect innovative companies to accelerate sustainable economic growth”.
Supported by the Scottish Funding Council and Scottish & Highland and Islands Enterprise, the event also saw InnovateUK share information on the priorities for its Low Impact Building Innovation Platform.
Speaking after the event, Stephen Good, chief executive of Construction Scotland Innovation Centre said: “Innovation is a key driver for growth in construction. Our vision is to bring the industry and academia together to supercharge growth in the sector through an innovative approach.
“Today’s event is doing just that with CSIC, InnovateUK and The Knowledge Transfer Network interacting with industry and academia to see how we can support innovative projects both in relation to the construction supply chain and the whole life performance of buildings. The £6m of funding available could have a great benefit for Scottish construction activity in these areas.”
Simon Hart, Innovation Platform leader for InnovateUK, who is overseeing two competitions for the innovation agency’s funding, said: “These competitions have been in development for a year, going through industry consultation to find out the issues in the market to be addressed. We’d like to see a really broad range of organisations involved and innovations being proposed, hence the wide scope of the competitions.
“For Supply Chain Integration in Construction, we’re looking for feasibility studies where the output is a report after 12 months. The Building Whole-Life Performance Competition is more substantial, with a larger R&D component where the outcome should be an early stage prototype.
“I’m absolutely excited to be in Scotland- the turnout is great and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre have been very welcoming in getting us involved.”
Mr Hart was positive about future collaborations with Construction Scotland, adding: “They are the local voice of the industry- it’s important to listen to them to understand what the local needs are, and what innovation requirements are required in the Scottish market.”
Mark Wray, lead technologist- Low Impact Building for InnovateUK, is a Chartered Civil Engineer with a background in the UK’s Regional Development Agencies.
Described as the technical mind behind the ‘Supply Chain Integration in Construction’ competition, Mr Wray said: “This is very much about exploration- we’re exploring ideas through this competition. The ideas brought forward here will guide our future investments for the next five years. Lack of innovation and creativity are one of the key barriers for our industry- there’s a history of poor communication flows, and poor collaborative approaches.”
Asked about the biggest challenges to improving the supply train within the UK, he replied: “The industry itself has developed a very challenging series of targets and ambitions in terms of efficiency and delivery, and in order to meet those the supply chain needs more of a systems engineering approach.”
Mr Wray held up the automotive industry has an example of more systematic collaboration from end to end of the supply chain.
Alistair McKinnon, regional director for sustainable construction at Scottish Enterprise, said the construction sector is “turning a corner” following the economic downturn but stressed the importance of making the most of this growth for the long term future of construction.
“This is important, not just for the industry itself, but also for the wider benefit for the Scottish economy as the sector impacts so widely,” he said.
“Innovation is a key driver for growth in the sector and it’s through events like this that we can help maximise the growth of the sector and, in turn, the wider positive effect on the whole Scottish economy.”
Professor Sean Smith of Edinburgh Napier University added: “A key theme for today’s event was improving the supply chain in construction. This has a huge impact on the economic success of the sector and sharing of R&D leading to future innovative products and solutions. With the right supply chain you can support multiple companies entering the market through the same pipeline. The supply chain is critical to the overall performance and profitability of the whole industry which has a ripple effect on the number of jobs created.”
Bruce Lindsay, property development manager at CCG, part of City Legacy, the developer of the Athletes’ Village for the Commonwealth Games, said he brought “the client’s perspective to discussions and talking about the delivery and supply chain challenges in Scottish industry”.
Mr Lindsay described the Scotland construction industry’s history in innovation as: “Limited, and needing some revision in order that the industry can survive and thrive.”
“Collaborations between academia and industry in Scotland have to be encouraged, and that’s why we’re here,” he added.
Mr Lindsay was optimistic about Scotland’s chances of producing a winning partnership for the competitions, saying: “The talent’s there, you’ve just got to tap into it.”
Lorraine Dunsire, is area manager for Alumasc, a UK firm with a base in Linwood, Renfrewshire and producing building products for the Scotland construction industry.
Ms Dunsire worked with ScottishPower for 25 years before entering the construction industry. Alumasc is already funding their own pilot research with Aberdeen University to develop new ways of thermally insulating external wall. Ms Dunsire attended the event to see what the UK government was able to bring to the table to encourage innovation on a wider scale.
She said: “Working with academia is a way to stay ahead of our competitors in terms of product development.”
Ms Dunsire praised the concept of private industry taking full advantage of Scotland’s “world-class universities” in future collaborations.