A report published this week by the Institution of Civil Engineers, State of the Nation 2017: Digital Transformation, adds yet more weight to the arguments around the digitisation of construction and infrastructure.
In it, the ICE calls on the government to place “digital transformation” – of both the delivery and maintenance of infrastructure – at the heart of the infrastructure pillar of the upcoming industrial strategy.
In particular, it makes the point that the National Productivity Investment Fund still has £7bn of spending unallocated, and recommends that money is targeted towards “the digital transformation of both construction (digital delivery) and infrastructure (smart infrastructure) which increases the capacity and performance of existing assets and networks”.
This wouldn’t just have to be funding to support new technologies, either – it could also lend support to existing programmes like BIM Level 2.
The report also calls for a change to industry behaviours to “ensure that people at all points in their career have the right skills to adapt to advances in technology and information management”, with major infrastructure projects acting as incubators for innovation.
This dovetails neatly with some of the issues we’ve reported on already around innovation in construction this year, particularly with an analysis we published on Crossrail’s Innovate18 programme – perhaps the best example to date of a project incubating innovation.
This has now morphed into the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Platform, or i3P.
I’ve spoken to i3P chair and Tideway CEO Andy Mitchell, as well as the Knowledge Transfer Network which is administering the new platform, to see what the hopes are for i3P and how it will work in practice.
It’s obviously early days, but initial signs are promising – and i3P is aiming to make every major infrastructure project going forward an incubator for innovation, as well as providing a clearer path for those who want to dedicate their careers to innovation.
Let’s hope the government takes notice of the good work being done when the industrial strategy is eventually published.
Also this week:
- The Construction News Specialists Awards 2017 were held on Wednesday, with a number of categories recognising technology and innovation. Metek UK won the prize for BIM Excellence for the third year running, which also earned it the CN Special Award, while Alford Technologies scooped Business Innovation of the Year for its remote demolition of the boiler house at Didcot Power Station. Reactec meanwhile won the inaugural award for Technology Supplier of the Year.
- A £1.3bn city deal, dubbed the ‘internet coast’ for Swansea Bay, got the go-ahead this week, which could pave the way for the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project and a £169m ‘digital waterfront’, among other initiatives.