Aline Martins and Mark Wray, KTN were in Osaka and Tokyo in Japan at the end of March ’19 leading the Transforming Construction Global Expert Mission.

Insights from the Expert Mission:

The Mission brought together a delegation of UK experts representing industry, government, and academia including the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Imperial College London, Active Building Centre, Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), and the multinational Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland.

During a week-long of visits, the UK delegation of experts had the opportunity of meeting government representatives including the New Energy and Industrial Development Organisation, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Japan External Trade Organisation, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), and key industry players such as Obayashi Corporation, Komatsu Ltd., Sekisui House, Daiwa House Industries, Panasonic Home, as well as innovative start-ups like the Muscle Corporation.

The Mission had the goal of understanding the current state-of-the-art, initiatives and investments in the Japanese construction industry as well as related manufacturing and digital industries which feed and stimulate solutions and innovations in the construction sector. The delegates were also tasked to gather insights on the priorities and potential models for collaboration with Japan that could form the basis for developing the international aspects of the UK government’s priorities in construction.

But why Construction?

Construction is one of the most important economic sectors of the UK. In 2016, the industry had a turnover of around £370 billion adding £138 billion in value to the economy, employing 3.1 million people, and exporting over £ 8 billion in products and services[1].

Despite the strengthens of the sector, a recent study undertaken by the Construction Leadership Council[2] on behalf of the government identified profound structural challenges in the industry mainly related to low productivity, skills shortage and lack of investment in R&D and innovation.

Acknowledging the importance of the sector for the country’s economy and society as well as the potential for the UK to increase its exports tapping into the rapidly growing international infrastructure market worth $2.5 trillion a year, the UK government launched the Construction Sector Deal. The Deal is a partnership between government and industry that seeks to improve productivity in the sector through innovation and skills development.

The Deal is being delivered by the Transforming Construction Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund which is investing up to £170 million to enable the creation of new construction processes and solutions and the adoption of digital manufacturing tools that will increase productivity across the UK and generate opportunities in global markets.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/construction-sector-deal/construction-sector-deal.
[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/construction-labour-market-in-the-uk-farmer-review.

But why Japan?

Needless to say, Japan is one of the most innovative countries in the world. The nation dominates innovation rankings and global markets in automobiles, robotics, biotech, nanotech and ICT. Japan is also one of the countries leading the rollout of 5G mobile networks which are expected to be in place in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.

The Japanese government is also seeking to guarantee that the country becomes even more prominent in the international innovation landscape. By 2020, the country will invest up to 4 per cent of the GDP in R&D. Most recently, the Japanese Cabinet Office launched Society 5.0, a human-centred vision that aims to exploit technologies such as AI, big data analysis and robotics to tackle the country’s most pressing socioeconomic challenges.

In addition, the Japanese construction sector is booming! In 2018, the construction industry grew by 10%, contributing roughly £193.5 billion to the Japanese economy. A key driver of this growth is the various major events that the country will host. Japan is currently serving as the stage of the Rugby World Cup and Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics while Osaka, Japan third-largest city, will host the World Expo 2025. Only for the 2020 Olympics, estimates suggest that $ 84 billion is required to develop the infrastructure required for the games.

What have we found?

The findings of the Mission, including key insights and opportunities for collaboration, can be found in the Global Expert Mission Report.

What’s next for the Transforming Construction Industrial Challenge Fund?

As part of the Transforming Construction Industrial Challenge Fund, Innovate UK has recently launched the Transforming Construction round 2 competition: MMC, digital, and whole-life performance and the Transforming UK Construction: demonstrator projects. The first will invest up to £10 million in collaborative R&D projects that can improve productivity, quality and performance in UK construction. The second, will provide funding up to £26 million for demonstrator projects in MMC, digital and whole-life asset performance.

About Global Expert Missions

Innovate UK Global Expert Mission Programme is one of the most important tools to support the UK’s Industrial Strategy’s ambition for the UK to be the international partner of choice for science and innovation. Delivered by the KTN, the programme provides deep insight into the opportunities for UK innovation and shaping future programmes.

To learn more about the Global Expert Missions Programme and explore opportunities for collaboration with KTN’s International & Development Team contact Aline Martins. For more information about the Transforming Construction Industrial Challenge Fund contact Mark Wray.

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