This month the Technology Strategy Board published its 2014-15 Delivery Plan, that in relation to the built environment sector focuses on the Low Impact Buildings Innovation Platform and a commitment to fund £12.5m in four new competitions in the current financial year. By far the largest proportition of funds (£7.5m) will be used in efforts to 'digitise the construction sector' - by promoting and developing standards for building information modelling.
For the next five years The Technology Strategy Board says it plans to nudge the building sector away from its traditional craft-based approach to an industrialised, outcome-focused and process-driven one.
Such as change, it hopes, will help reduce build times and costs, improve predictability, precision and quality, with the hoped for results being improved quality and buildings that are more carbon-efficient.
Opening pathways into Europe and expanding opportunities for businesses to collaborate and innovate
The 2014-15 Delivery Plan outlines what the Technology Strategy Board plans for developing and nurturing British entrepreneurial talent across its priority areas in the areas of digital, transport, health and care, agriculture and food, low impact buildings, urban living, resource efficiency and emerging technologies and industries.
Eighty eight new competitions, designed to find and fund top innovative ideas, have been allocated to these investment areas including:
£82m to energy
£80m will go to programmes in the healthcare sector
£72m to support initiatives in high value manufacturing
£70m to transport
£42m for digital technologies.
Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said, “The 2014-15 Delivery Plan raises the Technology Strategy Board's ambitions to a higher level, enhancing support for UK companies through a range of targeted programmes, opening up lucrative pathways into Europe and expanding facilities and opportunities for businesses to collaborate and innovate still further.”
Technology Strategy Board has identifies market and technology areas with the greatest potential for growth, with input from central government on growth drivers. In 2012 the Government, led by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, began to develop a new long term approach to industrial strategy.
It also acts as delivery partner for Government departments’ innovation programmes, and links policymakers with businesses that develop and commercialise innovative products and services.
In partnership with the KTN and others, Technology Strategy Board helps business by providing access to funding and finance; access to knowledge, skills, equipment and partners; access to entrepreneurial expertise, mentoring and advice; access to lead customers; making connections and investing in priority areas based on potential.
The delivery plan
Ahead of an increased budget in 2015/16, TSB’s overall delivery plan for for this year consists of actions to:
Offer enhanced support for high-growth-potential SMEs;
Adding two new Catapults;
Supporting companies to access Horizon 2020 funding;
Developing its EU and international strategy;
Developing the role of government as a lead customer and expanding SBRI;
Stimulating collaboration and partnerships for innovation, joining up the innovation landscape, and engaging and communicating with business.
Investing in areas based on potential
Around the ‘thematic’ priority areas considered to have the most potential for innovation to drive UK economic growth, 88 competitions for R&D and innovation, committing over £400m of funding, was previewed in the plan for the year.
These priority areas are digital, transport, health and care, agriculture and food, low impact buildings, urban living, resource efficiency and emerging technologies and industries.
‘Significant’ investments are promised for collaborative R&D and to set up a new Urban Living Innovation Platform, that follows on from last year’s future cities demonstrator alongside the work of the Future Cities Catapult.
By the end of the year the aim is to publish new strategies in each priority area; launch the three new innovation platforms; and evaluate the potential for an innovation platform focusing on ‘global challenges’.
The Challenge-led area of Built environment
Low impact buildings
According to Technology Strategy Board, the demands on the UK’s built environment are changing rapidly - with issues around legislation, urbanisation, concerns about energy security, resilience and adaptation to environmental change requiring new approaches to design, construction and operation of buildings.
In order to meet these requirements it considers the construction industry needs to transform itself from a traditional craft-based sector to an industrialised, outcome-focused and process-driven one. This direction, it says, is supported by government policy to reduce build times and costs; improve predictability, precision and quality; and deliver high carbon efficiency.
The document highlights some UK successes, however. For example the UK has five architecture, engineering and design firms in the world’s top 25 by turnover – making the UK second only to the US – and three of the top 25 contractors in Europe. The UK also produces a healthy £18bn of higher-value building technologies and energy management solutions and exports £11bn of high-value architecture and design, engineering, construction management, building technologies and energy management solutions.
The plan for investments in the construction sector has been developed in collaboration with the Government’s industrial strategy for construction, Construction 2025.
This joint strategy envisions and a plans for long-term strategic action by government and industry to promote the success of the UK construction sector.
It focuses on key growth markets in:
The construction strategy is part of the government’s industrial strategy.
Barriers to innovation
The document identifies factors that act as barriers to innovation in the Built environment sector:
Globally and in the UK, construction has a strong subcontracting culture. This means that information, and innovation, spreads slowly;
Contracting practice results in risk being passed to the smallest players in the supply chain, which limits novel approaches or technologies due to concerns over product and professional liability;
The majority of design decisions are taken on-site, impacting on the quality of the outcomes and speed of build, and reducing the opportunity to develop repeatable practices;
Innovation tends to be on a project- by-project basis, rather than within the context of a continuous learning culture;
Both the industry and the consumer are conservative and risk-averse.
In response the focus areas are:
digital design and engineering
high-performance materials and building technologies
energy management and diagnostics tools.
Cumulatively, £12.5m has been budgeted to fund competitions in these areas, on a timescale according to the following table. ￼
TSB’s Built environment action plan 2014-15
New urban living Innovation Platform
Innovation platforms bring together the public and private sectors to address on societal challenges, where government action can create global business opportunities. TSB plans continue to its five existing innovation platforms (including low impact buildings, established in 2008) and establish three new innovation platforms focusing on urban living, energy systems and transport systems.