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7 initiatives helping UK property and construction companies go digital

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74% of UK firms say that reducing costs has become more important post-pandemic

According to the Enterprise Research Council, 74% of UK firms say that reducing costs has become more important post-pandemic, with 65% citing increasing their use of digital technologies as their new priority.

However, with steep inflation, rising energy bills and material and labour shortages hitting every sector, these two goals are often at loggerheads – particularly in the construction industry which is still behind the curve in terms of digital transformation.

UK productivity is 20% lower than other countries

But with UK productivity sitting around 20% lower than comparable countries like France, Germany and the US – what support is out there for UK construction and real estate companies looking to take the next steps in digital transformation?

In this article, we look at seven resources that are helping to drive digital transformation in construction and real estate along the entire value chain.

1. Local and national support for SMEs

Know the importance of becoming more digital but don’t know where to start? There is a wealth of support available to small and medium businesses in the UK. The best way to find out what’s available in your area is to use the finance and business support finder on the GOV.UK website. You can filter your search by industry, business stage, region and the kind of support you need. Resources range from free digital learning courses offered by initiatives like Durham Digital Workforce and Digital360 Manchester and the E-Business Support Programme to business escalators, incubators and growth grants.

Businesses in Scotland can access Business Gateway, which offers in-depth digital guides, workshops and support to help business owners understand the benefits of digital transformation and how to implement change. It’s free to access their digital guides (like Digitise your business processes) and you can access free 1-1 advice either online or in-person with your local Business Gateway office.

2. The Help to Grow Scheme

In 2021, the UK government announced new support for small and medium businesses through its Help to Grow and Help to Grow: Digital schemes. The schemes offer management and financial training at a heavily subsidised cost, access to free, impartial support on how digital products can boost your business and up to 50% off selected accounting and CRM software. To qualify, companies must have between one* and 249 employees, be a UK company registered with Companies House or the FCA, have been trading for more than 12 months and be purchasing software for the first time.

*The scheme was originally only available to companies with five to 249 employees but was amended in July 2022 to make it accessible to more small businesses.

3. The Construction Innovation Hub

The Construction Innovation Hub is a collaboration between industry bodies, policy-makers, practitioners and academics with the aim of driving innovation across the construction and addressing the industry’s performance and productivity challenges. Its aim is to change the way our industry thinks about value, going beyond cost controlling and considering the sustainability, productivity and social impact of the built environment. It combines expertise from the BRE, the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC). The offering includes the Value Toolkit – a suite of tools to help you make the right procurement decisions for your goals and be in compliance with relevant policies and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The hub also provides resources to help companies build a strong business case for innovation and develop user-friendly guidance, training and tools, and to support the adoption of the UK BIM Framework, Government Soft Landings, Digital Twins, Digital Estates and Security-Mindedness.

4. The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) at Cambridge University

The CDBB’s mission is ‘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.’

To achieve this, the centre creates case studies, tools and guidance for the industry and collaborates with other initiatives including the Construction Innovation Hub and the National Digital Twin Programme, developing and advising on digital training tools and promoting security-mindedness for digital construction. The CDBB also supports Business Information Modelling (BIM) in the UK as a part of the UK BIM Framework and develops resources for the industry, such as BIM strategy training and webinars for construction SMEs.

5. The UK BIM Alliance & UK BIM Framework

The aim of the UK BIM Alliance is to support industries in the first steps to digital transformation and to make sure that Business Information Modelling (BIM) is ‘business as usual’ for UK companies. Together with the CDBB and BSI, the alliance is working to build the UK BIM Framework which sets out the approach for implementing BIM using the framework provided by the  ISO 19650 series. Their resources include standards, guidance, information protocol and learning outcomes to help organisations understand the fundamental principles of Business Information Modelling. For more information, visit the UK BIM Alliance or check out the UK BIM Framework Guidance.

6. buildSMART UK & Ireland

buildSmart is the international authority for the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) standards which cover process, data, terms and change management in the build asset industry. They provide guidance and support collaboration among the global community through meetings, webinars and bi-annual summits as well as providing services for advancing the use of BIM.

7. The International Building Performance & Data Initiative (IBPDI)

The aim of the IBPDI is to develop an open and free data standard that can read and understand ‘foreign’ data. In this way, this global, industry-wide data and performance standard brings all relevant data together. With the help of a Common Data Model, data from systems such as BIM, facility management and asset management can be connected, compared and used efficiently by investors, owners and process stakeholders – enabling 360 insights to help companies hit targets and profitability KPIs. The IBPDI relies on a large network of companies and experts to ensure that the model fits all requirements and recognises all types of data.