Construction should be the target for government’s tech strategy

Abstract image for opinion about the government technology strategy
Image: Bluejay Khudri | Dreamstime.com

Rather than intensely competitive sectors like AI and fintech, the government’s International Technology Strategy should focus on construction and its modernisation. So says Haman Manak of Stanmore.

We’re now a year on since the government announced its International Technology Strategy. Yet, despite Rishi Sunak’s enthusiasm, the UK doesn’t look like it will place on the global tech podium anytime soon.

Recent research from Demos reveals that approximately 350,000 stakeholder businesses are largely dissatisfied – they lack the necessary infrastructure to execute Sunak’s vision. With subpar facilities, companies cannot create the foundations to allow technology to grow.

This leads to a damning consensus: Sunak’s plan seems like a failed PR stunt, not a legitimate, concerted effort. If the government truly wants to turn around the strategy and deliver on its promise, it needs to look at the sectors where tech could make a real impact.

Construction is the answer.

Haman Manak of Stanmore

“If Sunak really is keen to make the UK a global technology superpower by 2030, construction should be first in line for modernisation.”

Haman Manak

Real opportunity

We all know the sector has suffered a tough past 12 months. Battered by the economic headwinds, insolvencies were, unfortunately, at a high. Sector-wide vulnerabilities, previously covered by the more favourable economic environment, have well and truly been revealed.

Tech and innovation provide an opportunity for all construction firms. The site has largely been unchanged for 30 years – and developments are still being completed with outdated machinery. This means processes and projects are not being completed perhaps as quickly as they should, which does not favour these firms financially.

Increased efficiency will drastically reduce the construction cycle. This means firms can take on more projects and developments at any given time, providing them with more reserves to cover their backs.

This is all well and good, but how might tech be implemented across the sector? Augmented reality could be embraced to erase any initial faults before a brick is laid. AI could improve BIM by allowing teams to make data-driven construction and design choices. And training software could be revitalised to ensure workforce skills are up to scratch.

The time is now

Now is the time for Sunak to re-evaluate the government strategy. Naysayers might call for a direct pivot towards highly lucrative sectors like AI, SaaS and fintech, but they would be misguided. These sectors, cash aside, are highly congested – the UK would struggle to make ground in these spaces dominated by Silicon Valley heavyweights.

Construction technology is completely the opposite. Expected to hit a CAGR (compound yearly growth rate) of 14.8%, the market is on track for sharp growth. Plus, now that construction has seen a jump in activity, the sector is seeing a long-missed sense of optimism – and will be actively looking for opportunities to maintain its growth.

Gone are the days of construction’s onsite and offsite traditionalism. If Sunak really is keen to make the UK a global technology superpower by 2030, construction should be first in line for modernisation.

Technological success will come from industry turnarounds. Construction is not only there and ready for the taking, but – given its 7% contribution to UK GDP – innovation in the sector could help lift critical economic growth.

Despite all the odds, construction has beaten the count. But we can’t let the sector rest on its laurels: it could and should be the departure point for global innovation.

Haman Manak is procurement director of Stanmore and director of Manak Homes.

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