Leading construction technology expert calls for UK Taskforce to drive tech revolution
Leading construction technology expert, Paul Cuatrecasas, has urged the Government to form a specialist taskforce to drive the adoption of cutting-edge technologies in the UK construction industry.
Cuatrecasas, who leads specialist M&A and strategic advisory firm, Aquaa Partners, has stressed the need for the sector’s largest firms to reinvent themselves by entering into joint ventures with, or investing in, emerging technology companies.
With the sector still reeling from the impact of the global pandemic, he argues it is vital construction and property firms leverage new technology to boost their margins and drive greater efficiency and resilience, while at the same time reducing human capital and insurance costs.
Led by a small team of less than a dozen experts, the new taskforce would identify and shortlist between 30 to 50 start-ups from across the globe who are pioneering new technologies that look set to disrupt and transform the construction sector. These firms will then receive government support through joint ventures with established UK businesses.
Key technologies that offer significant potential for the construction include:
- Smart Materials, such as air purifying paints and self-healing concrete being developed.
- Robotics to automate key stages of the construction process.
- Moduler Building Technology to support the design, manufacturing, and construction process through the provision of advanced production, material, and installation management.
- Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to aid in on-site accident prevention and risk management.
- Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to deliver more accurate property valuations to augment building management and boost urban planning.
- Internet of Things and the deployment of smart devices and sensors for use in predictive maintenance and the monitoring of environmental data on construction sites.
- 3D Printing to safely “print” new homes in days rather than months, while saving money and reducing risk of injury.
- Drone Technology for use in architectural planning and building management.
Commenting on the need for the new taskforce, Cuatrecasas said: “For too long, the poorly valued UK construction and property sector has been hamstrung by high labour costs, accounting in some cases for 50 per cent of all overheads and other inefficiencies. If it continues on its current course the industry will see further bankruptcies and a stagnant market.
“If, however, these technologies and teams from leading technology companies are successfully integrated into the mainstream construction and property sector they will enable firms to build faster, smarter, safer and more environmentally friendly buildings. Ultimately, they will also make the whole industry a more attractive investment proposition and help firms retain and bring in the brightest talent.
“The application of technology in the construction and real estate sector is almost limitless and includes building an entire house in just a matter of days using 3D printing or fully automated robotics.
“But a key challenge that the UK’s construction and real estate sector faces is its culture and mindset. It’s been too staid for too long. That needs to change – and fast – if it’s to remain competitive and keep up with other nations who are already much further ahead in terms of technology adoption.
“If you want evidence of this then just look to Asia, which dominates capital investment in property technology, accounting for 60 per cent of the global ‘proptech’ market. Such has been the level of investment, estimated at a staggering $150bn per year, that China is poised to overtake the West and become the global leader in key technologies such as AI, quantum computing and robotics over the next five to 10 years.
“There’s plenty of capital out there looking for a good home. UK firms need to change their playbook and come up with a long-term strategy, whereby they partner with these new technology companies to take advantage of this opportunity.”
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