Construction and the built environment is fundamental to our economy and quality of life. In 2016, the UK construction industry's turnover was £370bn. It exported more than £8bn of products and services and employed around 3.1 million people. However, leaders in the industry are well aware that the sector needs to adapt and look beyond itself to meet the needs of a fast-changing world and improve its productivity through innovation.
The government's new Construction Sector Deal offers the sector many business opportunities, but also sets it a challenge to transform itself through taking up new technologies and methods to meet sustainability and efficiency targets for construction and performance management and change public perceptions. The specialist knowledge and state-of-the-art products and services that local and small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs offer will play a significant role in this transformation.
Change does not happen overnight and innovation for most companies is a process of evolution through adoption of technology and new ways of doing business.
With huge growth targets, it is essential that the construction industry finds new ways to accelerate the delivery of building and infrastructure projects, while maintaining high standards. Add to this the uncertainty about the long-term impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit, there has clearly never been a more important time for companies (particularly SMEs) to innovate and reach out to others for support.
With huge growth targets, it is essential the construction industry finds new ways to accelerate the delivery of building and infrastructure projects, while maintaining high standards. Add to this the uncertainty about the long-term impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit, then there has clearly never been a more important time for companies (particularly SMEs) to innovate and reach out to others for support.
Major growth opportunities lie ahead for companies who can adapt and evolve with:
- Digital technology
- Manufacturing and automation
- Improved sustainability
- New business models
There are also major business development opportunities for companies to join major project supply chains. The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) area of Kent, Essex and East Sussex will have major construction projects, both consented and at planning stage, potentially coming forward during the coming decade. These include the Lower Thames Crossing, new Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Public Health England relocation in Harlow, A12 & A120 expansions, Bradwell B Nuclear Power Station, the London Resort in Northfleet and new garden communities. This is additional to the general housing and commercial developments. Part of the I-Construct project will be to assist the local supply chain to participate in these developments.
In order to compete for work successfully, companies will need to know who the clients are, what their procurement processes are, what their key contract award criteria will be and which other companies or sectors they might need to work with. From a client perspective, working with local suppliers on these projects will be very important as it helps to create local jobs, provides better value and adds to the overall social and environmental benefits of their investment.
I-Construct has therefore been designed to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to:
- Win new work by connecting them with major projects, client groups and potential supply chain partners
- Helping them to improve their competitiveness and procurement readiness
- Evolve their businesses through technology and innovation
- Make the time and space for business development strategy and planning
Who is behind I-Construct?
I-Construct is led by the Haven Gateway Partnership and its delivery partners: Braintree District Council, BRE (Building Research Establishment), Colchester Institute, and Daedalus Environmental.
It is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and HM Government until the end of 2022. Match-funding is also being provided by Braintree District Council for the I-Construct Innovation Hub and BRE to link the project to their national initiatives.
We will also collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders and industry bodies to deliver the project.