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Infrastructure blog

Innovation investment a key issue for Brexit negotiations

02 May 2017

Securing long term investment in research and innovation must remain a priority for Government and industry. It is the key to greater productivity and can enhance our position as a global leader in our sector.

Innovation investment a key issue for Brexit negotiations

While this is a challenging time for our sector, I think it is also full of exciting opportunity. The UK is predicted to be the biggest construction market in Europe, and sixth biggest in the world, by 2030. Investment in innovation will be critical to meeting this challenge and capitalising on the opportunities this presents. It can create lower costs, faster delivery, carbon reduction and world leading expertise to help promote our exports.

I am passionate about the role innovation and new technologies can play in reshaping our industry for the benefit of everyone. We are already seeing the impact that innovations such as digital engineering, offsite fabrication and lean techniques can have on efficiency and productivity.

Government and industry must work together to secure innovation investment over the next couple of decades. In the near term, we need an outcome from the Brexit negotiations that actively supports this, and in the longer term - including through the framework of the Industrial Strategy - we need a vision for the industry that is a leader in creating and applying innovation.

Key priorities for the negotiations and beyond

  • Working collaboratively on new innovations helps bring the industry together to meet future challenges. As an industry we are excellent collaborators and negotiations must maximise the funding opportunities for joined-up research. Over the longer term, the Government must commit to infrastructure spending so we have a clear and secure programme to build collaboration around.
  • Technological advances are enabling the industry’s productivity to take a huge leap forward. Support from EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 has already helped produce some excellent results and Government plays an important role in facilitating this co-operation. Negotiations should seek to allow access by EU firms to UK research consortia and funding. Beyond this, continued support through research and innovation programmes like Innovate UK and R&D tax credits, are essential to help us achieve our ambitions for the sector.
  • Evidence shows that the UK has achieved an excellent return on investment in EU research. We welcome Government commitment to guarantee EU-funded research beyond our formal membership of the EU, but negotiations must ensure access to EU funding for collaborative research. In the longer term, Government and industry must help enable the transfer of expertise between industries and nations.
  • Brexit poses a real threat to the important role universities play in construction research. It is worrying that applications from EU students are down and EU nations and organisations are more wary of involving the UK in future projects. Negotiations must focus on ensuring favourable access to EU students and inspiring confidence that the UK welcomes students from outside our borders. In the longer term, we must encourage talent to stay in the UK and be part of the continued success of our industry.
  • The UK’s balance of trade in contracting and consultancy is already positive and we are a world leader in digitalisation and smart infrastructure. Negotiations must ensure UK construction professionals have access to EU markets and, in the longer term, we must all do more to promote the UK’s global expertise in this sector.

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