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Government hands industry £72m R&D boost

The government has pledged £72m towards research and development within the construction industry.

Innovate UK awarded the cash to the Transforming Construction Alliance between Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the University of Cambridge Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) to deliver a national core innovation hub for the sector.

The hub will attempt to foster cross-industry collaboration with the aim of commercialising digital and manufacturing technologies for the construction sector.

Speaking to Construction News at the launch of the hub at BRE in Watford, construction minister Richard Harrington said: “It’s a partnership; the days of government just stipulating, it doesn’t work anymore.”

When asked about what needed to change first: the technology used by the industry or the culture within the industry, Mr Harrington said: “It’s a chicken and egg job isn’t it.

“If government pushes then others will follow; government can help change the culture.”

Modular construction is one of the areas the government is looking to promote with the new hub, which the minister told CN was badly needed.

“Why are people doing modular? Because the cost reductions are big, because of skills shortages. Whether we like it or not there’s a skills shortage in all of the traditional industries.

“That’s why the costs of bricklaying and everything else have shot up so much.

Mr Harrington continued: “If modular construction is encouraged with government leading it can involve different types of skills.”

The hub project will be led by Costain development director Keith Waller, who has been appointed programme director on behalf of the Transforming Construction Alliance.

Mr Waller led development of the recent Transforming Infrastructure Performance report and is a civil engineer by trade.

Prior to his appointment he was a senior advisor for the Infrastructure and Projects Authority for seven years.

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