Government commits £5.4m to support the built environment

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The government has dedicated £5.4m to fund a centre of excellence in Cambridge to continue the work of the Digital Built Britain programme

The centre is part of a landmark construction sector deal announced in the Industrial Strategy.

Business secretary Greg Clark revealed more information about the sector deal on 29 November, which will see the government provide £170m over three years through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with the expectation that another £250m of match funding for research and development will come from construction to develop ways to improve productivity.

The Centre for Digital Built Britain is a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge to support the transformation of the construction sector using digital technologies to better plan, build, maintain and use infrastructure.

The centre will focus on the ongoing transformation of the built environment through the digital tools, standards and processes that are known as Building Information Modelling (BIM).

The centre will continue the work of the Digital Built Britain programme and the UK BIM Task Group to support delivery of the government’s Digital Built Britain strategy.

Led by Professor Andy Neely, pro-vice chancellor, enterprise and business relations at Cambridge University, the centre builds on the expertise and experience of faculty from the Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC), Cambridge Big Data, the Distributed Information and Automation Lab (DIAL), the Cambridge Service Alliance (CSA) and the Institute for Manufacturing to form a Research Bridgehead.

A team of specialists from Digital Built Britain and partners from industry and academia will work collaboratively to develop and demonstrate policy and practical insights that will enable the exploitation of new and emerging technologies, data and analytics to enhance the natural and built environment, thereby driving up commercial competitiveness and productivity, as well as citizen quality of life and well-being.

Neely said: “The University of Cambridge is delighted to have been invited to host the Centre for Digital Built Britain, which will work in partnership with government and industry to improve the performance, productivity and safety of construction through the better use of digital technologies.

“The construction and infrastructure sector are poised for a digital revolution, and Britain is well placed to lead it,” said Dr Jennifer Schooling, director of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction. “Over the next decade advances in BIM will combine with the Internet of Things, data analytics, data-driven manufacturing and the digital economy to enable us to plan new buildings and infrastructure more effectively, build them at lower cost, operate and maintain them more efficiently, and deliver better outcomes to the people who use it.”

Andrew Wolstenholme, chair of the Construction Leadership Council, said: “I am delighted that construction has been included in the first wave of sector deals. It presents a huge opportunity for one of the UK’s largest industries and the broader economy.”

An important strand of the strategy is “Procure for Better Value”, which will build a critical mass of clients and advisors equipped to use outcome-based procurement therefore driving efficiency in capital programme delivery and lifetime performance.

Ann Bentley, Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) global board director and Construction Leadership Council (CLC) member, has worked closely with industry colleagues to develop this theme.

“RLB is delighted to support this ground-breaking government/Industry collaboration, and looks forward to the next exciting phase,” added Bentley.

As well as the new centre of excellence in Cambridge the government confirmed that part of its £170m had already been allocated to a number of other new projects. These include construction innovation hubs in Swansea and Coventry.

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