The government has confirmed the arrangements for a new construction innovation centre following an announcement on 30 November by construction minister Richard Harrington of the final element of the Construction Sector Deal.
The new Core Innovation Hub aims to transform the UK’s construction industry by supporting the development and use of technologies such as digital design, advanced manufacturing, robotics, drones and augmented and virtual reality.
Many of these techniques are used and proven in other sectors, such as automotive manufacturing, but it will be a first for construction. The government hopes that increased use of technology will enable the sector to design and build faster, cheaper and more sustainably. Smart sensors and digital systems will be incorporated into buildings and infrastructure, so they can manage and maintain themselves and the data they gather will enable the government and industry to make our towns and cities better places to live, work and travel in.
Business and industry minister Richard Harrington said: “We have the opportunity to revolutionise construction in the UK and the Core Innovation Hub will help us build smarter, greener and more efficient buildings much faster and cheaper than we do now. From the introduction of virtual reality to off-site manufacturing, our modern industrial strategy is helping the UK construction sector to develop new techniques and skills, modernising the sector and delivering the homes and buildings our nation needs.”
Harrington announced the appointment of the Transforming Construction Alliance, a partnership between the Manufacturing Technology Centre, the University of Cambridge Centre for Digital Built Britain and the Building Research Establishment, to deliver the £72m Core Innovation Hub (CIH). It is through the new hub that the government’s 2017 budget announcement that five government departments will adopt a presumption in favour of offsite construction from 2019 will be delivered.
Keith Waller, programme director for the Transforming Construction Alliance, said: “I am delighted to be leading the Transforming Construction Alliance in its mission to deliver the Core Innovation Hub project and boost productivity and performance in the construction sector. I look forward to working alongside government, industry and the talented teams at MTC, BRE and CDBB to realise the vision of a transformed sector.”
Andy Mitchell, CEO of Tideway and co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council welcomed the appointment of the Transforming Construction Alliance to lead the Core Innovation Hub for Construction. “The Core Innovation Hub has an essential role to play in delivering increased sector productivity by accelerating industry innovation,” said Mitchell.
“It will enable construction businesses to develop and validate new products and manufacturing and assembly processes and will leverage investment into UK offsite manufacturing capability. The CIH will provide an opportunity for all organisations with an interest in construction innovation to participate in our industry transformation and I urge everyone to find out how they can benefit from this remarkable opportunity,” he said.
Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) also welcomed the launch of the new hub. "We're delighted to welcome the Core Innovation Hub which will spearhead the practical adoption of new technology and offsite construction in our sector," she said. "However, the productivity and performance gains sought by government will only be realised if these new routes to market are accessible across the entire supply chain. Therefore, we need to be careful not to exclude smaller organisations, that have less capacity to try new concepts or tools.
"By working with organisations like ACE, the hub will be able to access all areas of the industry and our soon to be launched Future of Consultancy campaign will ensure all our members, no matter what size, are ready to contribute and work with government to make the most of new technologies like digital design, advanced manufacturing, robotics, drones and augmented and virtual reality," said Vickers.