While the construction industry is booming, and experts predict it will continue to be one of the fastest growing industries by 2020, the sector suffers from low productivity. With a disconnection between supply and demand, construction companies have to reinvent themselves. Many of these players are looking at new technologies to modernize their processes and improve productivity. In 2017, more than $735M was invested across 95+ deals to construction tech companies.

On November 6th, the Global Open Innovation Network organized a TechMeeting in Boston dedicated to Construction Tech. The event aimed at providing a better understanding of the changes happening in the construction industry. The event gathered construction professionals, researchers and investors.

Our panel was composed of four experts:

  • Jay Snyder, moderator of the panel, Technology Practice Leader at FMI
  • Martin Rozmanith, Sales Director, AEC Industry, at Dassault Systèmes
  • Adrien Chaussinand, Head of Innovation and Partnerships at Winnovation
  • Ian Howell, Executive in Residence at Building Ventures

Adrien Chaussinand opened the discussion and explained how Bouygues, Winnovation’s parent company, keeps innovating after 80 years in the construction industry. The group’s strategy includes intrapreneurship initiatives, open innovation and scouting teams, and investment funds for each branch of the company. The group is also taking risks by buying technologies or integrating new technologies as a client.

The panel agreed on the necessity to define a clear innovation strategy and spent some time discussing the macro trends driving innovation in Construction.

According to Ian Howell, population growth and global urbanization are the two main forces driving innovation in the construction sector. Indeed, while demand levels keep increasing, construction companies cannot keep up and the disconnection of supply and demand forces companies to find and implement disruptive solutions.

Ian Howell illustrated this unbalance by taking the example of the United Kingdom: the government is forecasting the need for 5.3 million homes by 2040 which means building a new home every 5 minutes over the next 22 years. However, building a single-family home takes on average 7 months according to the National Association of Home Builders.

The panel then discussed Constructuring– the marriage of construction and manufacturing – as a way to reconnect supply and demand. By democratizing prefabrication and modular construction, construction companies could avoid weather delays, lower cost, reduce waste and pollution and improve overall quality. Also, Constructuring allows companies to train and deploy unskilled labor at a time when there is a huge shortage of skilled construction workers.

Martin Rozmanith then explained how to go further with Constructuring and provided three main recommendations: use data to redesign the supply chain and minimize frictions, get rid of the subcontractor model to reduce costs, errors and delays, and don’t hesitate to source globally instead of relying on regional suppliers and manufacturers.

Later, Adrien Chaussinand insisted on the importance of data: from driving the accuracy of modular construction to increasing transparency with clients, the implementation of data management solutions is a key factor of success.

Over the discussion, Ian Howell shared the example of an innovative company that successfully implemented modular construction, data management and supply chain optimization. In 19 days, Mini Skies City, a Chinese Construction company, has built a 57 stories skyscraper with an average of 3 floors a day. A time-lapse video is available here.

Finally, the panel discussed sustainability issues and provided a set of recommendations: source more sustainable materials, improve expertise in the public sector for inspection and integrate the supply chain to have a better control of sustainability matters.

The Global Open Innovation Network invited 6 innovative startups to present their solution. The presenting startups were: Avvir, Construction Robotics, DotProduct, Ecomesure, Itekube and AirWorks.

Check our website for more information on the Global Open Innovation Network and don’t forget to register on Eventbrite for our next TechMeeting in San Francisco on December 5th: New Materials and Nanotechnologies. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us: prime@innovation-prime.com