The UK-GBC has revealed its first Innovation Lab, which offers a radical new approach to innovation in the built environment

The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) has launched its first Innovation Lab. Working alongside partners Canary Wharf Group, Land Securities and Marks & Spencer, the lab aims to identify and address the systematic challenges that businesses face in the built environment sector.

It is hoped the lab will enable the development of innovative and highly sustainable solutions. These will be discovered in an open innovation format, which enables participating organisations to work on common challenges collaboratively.

Collaboration has previously been difficult

Innovation is often avoided in the built environment industry due to the perceived risks, particularly surrounding intellectual property issues. However, the UK-GBC hopes it has put these concerns to bed by addressing these issues up front.

innovation labHead of Leadership and Innovation at UK-GBC Cat Hirst said: “Research and Development levels across our industry are painfully low; the UK currently only spends £43m on construction R&D. The risks to a single company of investing in developing a solution for such a high-cost industry is often seen as prohibitive.

“But we desperately need to find ways of working together to achieve radical change if we are to challenge business as usual and transition to a sustainable way of working.

“At UK-GBC we’re seeking to catalyse this change by using our unique position to convene our member organisations to work together to address the issues our industry faces.

“We want to ensure there is the time, space, and structure for open innovation to occur for the built environment.

“The Innovation Lab is not just about finding one solution to one problem, it’s about fostering a more open and collaborative approach to problem solving as an industry.

“We need to build the capacity of our industry to innovate and find the right approach to being creative and collaborative within a commercial setting.”

Breakthrough challenge

The lab started last month with a workshop on identifying the ‘breakthrough challenge’. The UK-GBC is working with the Lead Partners and thought leaders from its own membership to explore future trends, environmental and social challenges, as well as areas that are holding businesses back. The nine-month programme initially highlighted challenges surrounding climate change resilience, resource use, shifting demographics, technological advancement and health and wellbeing.

innovation lab

The next workshop will be on 1 February. Innovation Lab participants will be asked to respond to the breakthrough challenge by mapping existing innovations, identifying gaps and generating new innovative solutions to overcome the issues.

Martin Gettings, Group Sustainability Manager, Canary Wharf Group said: “We are delighted to be at the forefront of this innovation process which brings exciting potential to work collaboratively with our peers and our Level39 community, and build upon our status as one of the most forward-looking business and retail districts in the world. Above all, we look forward to driving improvements from which we can all benefit.”

Lydia Hopton, Plan A Project Manager, Marks & Spencer said the lab presented a united front for innovating the sector.

“It’s vital that businesses come together to find and develop solutions to common problems and challenges for the industry,” she said.

“At M&S we recognise that we can maximise the impact of our actions by sharing and supporting others on their journey to a more sustainable built environment, as well as continually improving our own development practices.”

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