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New body aims to build Europe-wide digital platform

9 February 2020 | By Andrew Pring

A new pan-European group has launched DigiPLACE, a framework that aims to create a common digital platform for construction activities across the Continent.

The EU-funded consortium links partners, third parties and an advisory board and is an unprecedented collaboration between EU construction industry representatives, academics and countries’ public authorities.

Launched quietly last September, the project partners are collaborating over 18 months to create the framework for the digital platform. The 19 partners from 11 countries, led by Politecnico di Milano, will pave the way for future projects in the field of digital construction.

This project is the first to target the digital transformation of the construction industry and receive EU funding from Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT).

The first official meeting of DigiPLACE in Brussels in September was followed by a launch conference, titled “Towards a European digital platform for construction”, in Bologna in November. The next meeting is a workshop titled “The role of Digital Platforms in construction machinery automation”, which takes place on 29 April 2020 in Hannover, Germany.

The members of DigiPLACE say that to remain competitive in an increasingly globalised market, the EU economy must transform itself digitally.

To achieve this, DigiPLACE aims to overcome longstanding construction issues such as the high presence of SMEs, low capitalisation, a low rate of higher educated employees, low investment in innovation, and a long supply chain. Different languages, taxation and regulatory frameworks are also obstacles to synergies that it aims to eradicate.

DigiPLACE’s website sets out why the project is so important, saying: “The construction sector is a key driver for the economy, but it is one of the poorest performers in terms of productivity and innovation. It has yet to embrace digital innovations that could help improve productivity and profitability. The digitalisation of the construction sector could be a potential game changer for the sector.

“The EU-funded DigiPLACE will create a common ecosystem of innovation, standardisation and commerce to increase the construction sector’s productivity and end products’ quality in terms of buildings and infrastructure. It will also investigate what kind of digital transformation will improve productivity and efficiency. The project’s results will impact the development and competitiveness of the construction value chain.”

Several initiatives have already been developed at national level to improve the innovation in this sector. At EU level, some projects were devoted to facilitating the exchange of information, practice and knowledge (eg, CPR 305/2011 and Levels).

However, DigiPLACE aims to create a common ecosystem of innovation, standardization and commerce with the aim to collect the achieved results and to increase the productivity of the sector and the quality of its building and infrastructure end products.

It will define a Reference Architecture Framework (RAF) for digital construction platform based on an EU-wide consensus involving a large community of stakeholders and the expertise of selected key players, resulting in a strategic roadmap for successful implementation of this RAF.

DigiPLACE will rely on a large set of partners, linked third parties and an Advisory Board representing leading European entities, companies and/or associations of industry, builders, owners (private and public), architects, research institutes, and ICT firms (for digital production, services and knowledge).

Image: Khwanchai Phanthong/Dreamstime.com