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New £5 million Research Leaders programme will transform the Construction Industry through digital technology

New £5 million Research Leaders programme will develop innovative solutions to transform construction industry and deliver, better performing homes, better jobs and better value for taxpayers as part of the Industrial Strategy.

The construction industry could be transformed using 3D printed concrete, teams of robots to manufacture and assemble buildings, and off-site manufacturing thanks to £18 million in new Government funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Four new research projects that aim to speed up assembly, save money, and improve the quality of UK building projects will be announced today, Thursday 31 January 2019, by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The projects, which will share £5 million, range in their scope from, exploring the use of digitally-designed 3D-printed concrete components that are created off-site, to developing ways to organise teams of robots – either on or off-site.

Another project will research how voice-activated Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality can be integrated with the assembly of components to speed up construction and increase productivity, without compromising health and safety.

The Research Leaders awards will support challenging research programmes offering successful research leaders the opportunity to build and develop a group of talented individuals around them to pursue their research vision within the context of the Transforming Construction Challenge.

In addition, UKRI announced £13.3 million, to fund 24 collaborative research and development projects, delivered by Innovate UK, in the construction sector that address the three core aims of the Transforming Construction challenge programme:

  • Designing and managing buildings through digitally-enabled simulation
  • Constructing quality buildings through offsite manufacturing approaches
  • Powering buildings with active generation and storage

Construction Minister, Richard Harrington, said:

 The use of Artificial Intelligence, digital techniques and off-site manufacturing, help us harness new methods of working. This delivers on the Government’s Construction Sector Deal which pledges to build better performing buildings, using less energy and providing better value for taxpayers.

These new methods to help the construction industry are a testament to the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy’s aims of building a better tomorrow for us all through scientific and technological advances.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, UKRI Chief Executive, said: 

Technologies being developed in the UK provide a significant opportunity to transform the way we build, such as the use of augmented reality to improve design or robotics to aid complex building assembly.

Through projects such as these, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund allows us to catalyse innovation across the UK’s vital construction industry improving productivity, sustainability and safety.

Winners include:

  • AI-Optimised Pathways for Schedule Execution – A project that uses artificial intelligence and algorithms to predict and plan optimum scheduling of construction projects – potentially reducing construction time
  • AIMCH – consortium includes UK’s biggest housebuilder, Barratt, and one of the largest social landlords, L&Q, which aims to bring down the cost of off-site manufacture for housebuilding
  • HIPER Pile – Led by Keltbray Group, project will develop new piling solutions to integrate energy and rainwater re-use when laying foundations

Delivery of the funding is led by UKRI through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK, under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Transforming Construction Challenge.

Sam Stacey, Director of the Transforming Construction Challenge, said:

 These Research Leaders and Collaborative Research and Development grants are funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and play a key role in advancing the transformation across the sector. They will help the construction industry work directly with talented researchers to explore new ways of working in construction that will speed up assembly, save money, and improve the quality of building projects.

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