An £18 million government fund is to drive the adoption of artificial intelligence and digital technology in the construction sector.
The aim is to move forward ideas which help in the prediction and planning of construction projects in order to avoid delays and transform how buildings and infrastructure are delivered.
The funding from UK Research and Innovation is part of a wider £170m government commitment, matched by £250m from industry, to help the nation become a world leader in the sector.
For all projects, the aim set is to ‘develop digitally-enabled simulations that support the design and management of buildings, adopt offsite manufacturing approaches that improve the quality of buildings and create active power generation and storage within buildings’.
Construction minister Richard Harrington said: “The use of artificial intelligence, digital techniques and off-site manufacturing help us harness new methods of working and delivers on the government’s construction sector deal.
“These new methods to help the construction industry are a testament to the government’s modern Industrial Strategy’s aims of building a better tomorrow for us all through scientific and technological advances.”
A total of £13.3m has been awarded to 24 projects, which will see industry collaborate with the research base to innovate.
These include nPlan, Kier and the University of Cambridge, which will use AI and algorithms to better predict, plan and schedule construction projects, and a consortium including housebuilder, Barratt Developments, and L&Q, which aims to make offsite manufacturing an alternative to traditional methods.
A further £5m is being invested to support research leaders to build teams and take on a research programme within the transforming construction challenge.
Four research projects will share funding, ranging from exploring digitally-designed, 3D-printed concrete components, to assessing the use of robots for both on and off-site construction.
Professor Sir Mark Walport, UKRI chief executive, said: “Technologies being developed in the UK provide a significant opportunity to transform the way we build, such as the use of augmented reality to improve design or robotics to aid complex building assembly.
“Through projects such as these, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund allows us to catalyse innovation across the UK’s construction industry, improving productivity, sustainability and safety.”
Sam Stacey, director of the transforming construction challenge, added: “These grants play a key role in advancing transformation across the sector.
“They will help the construction industry work directly with talented researchers to explore new ways of working that will speed up assembly, save money, and improve the quality of building projects.”