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Why the Future of Scottish Construction Lies in Innovation

According to Stephen Good, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) chief executive, construction in Scotland has a strong history of innovation in building and engineering.

His organisation is already working on 130 projects with a value of over £7 million.

The CSIC has also brokered nearly 300 collaborations between businesses and over 140 between academia and businesses. Industry estimates suggest that over the next five years, these projects will generate a revenue of £160m and £7.1m in savings. They will also create nearly 240 jobs, protect nearly 800, and launch 70 new products.

Mr. Good said that the CSIC channels through four innovation support areas. The first two are support for product and process innovation, the other two are support for business and service innovation. The current question is how to help the Scottish construction companies, engineers, architects, and designers as well as showcase the broad range of opportunities available in the industry, from the job site to the boardroom.

Off-site manufacturing, where building components are assembled indoors and constructed on-site, works with digital technologies and other innovations. Mr. Good said that an offsite hub, where firms can collaborate, has elevated Scotland’s reputation in the last decade. He explained that CSIC recognised an opportunity to get off-site companies to work together. During an 18-month period they managed to get the companies from a group of seven competing businesses to a collaborative partnership that was so successful it won a Scottish Enterprise award.


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Mr. Good was enthusiastic about CSIC’s potential as a single entry point into the broader Scottish construction innovation landscape. He explained that the construction industry has not always seen the need to use academic expertise in its work, and CSIC is trying to change that belief because such expertise can help.

He expressed pride in the 35,000sq ft industrial site that CSIC maintains at Hamilton International Technology Park. It houses £2m worth of innovative equipment, including a vacuum press for high value large panel timber products that is currently a first in the UK.

While the future for Scottish construction is looking more exciting and evolutionary in its outlook and processes, Mr. Good says that it still has to tackle the big issue of culture. He said that the industry does not appeal to women as much as it should, so CSIC is working with businesses that are actively trying to overcome diversity challenges.

Neil Sutherland, chief executive of MAKAR construction, said that a combination of imported buildings, apprentice shortage, and lack of innovative housebuilding methods could hit the Scottish construction sector in the near future. Although the market is comparatively buoyant at present, Mr. Sutherland said that this could change when more imported buildings are brought into the UK.

He pointed out that in Sweden, 70 companies are actively working in off-site construction, making it possible that the UK was going to get so far behind that building things well will be a struggle unless more progressive methods are adopted.

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