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New thinking from tech startups could help solve construction project issues

Three startups shortlisted to join ConstrucTech accelerator to work on innovative technologies to reduce project delays and overspend

Experts in the construction industry hope that innovations from tech startups can help to reduce delays and overspend in building projects.

Birmingham-based contractor Colmore Tang Group has selected three startups to discuss joining its ConstrucTech accelerator, run in partnership with entrepreneur support provider Virgin StartUp and which has a £10m innovation fund.

The three were shortlisted after 17 individuals competed in a pitching day in front of industry experts on 19 June.

Glenigan research data shows that in 2017, 40% of UK construction projects overran their schedule and 35% went over budget – and Colmore Tang CEO Andy Robinson told Computer Weekly there are a number of reasons for this.

“Sometimes it is a result of poor planning and execution, other times it can be due to elements outside anyone’s control, such as the weather,” he said. “However, the majority of issues arise through poor sequencing, planning, procurement and, of course, lack of required high-quality skills.

“Traditional thinking has dominated the construction industry for decades and this has resulted in a lack of willingness to adopt new ideas.”

Robinson said new technologies from startups could play a “significant role” in addressing these project issues. “This new thinking will hopefully enable us to adopt new concepts and ideas and, hopefully, adopt new methodologies that could help the productivity gap,” he said.

Products put forward during the pitching day included wearable devices that provide wellbeing data about workers on site, and a machine learning tool that can predict the duration of tasks in construction projects.

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If Colmore Tang decides to work with the three startups, they will receive mentoring and the opportunity to test their ideas at a ConstrucTech development site. They could also receive a share of the £10m fund.

Virgin StartUp chairman Sir Tom Shebbeare said the accelerator “marks the beginning of an important, long-awaited change in the construction industry”.

He added: “ConstrucTech has opened up exciting new opportunities for entrepreneurs and startup businesses around the world. It has given them the opportunity to showcase their technologies and benefit from the support of a leading contractor in the field and a £10m innovation fund.”

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