Ground breaking study provides valuable insight into construction innovation in north east England

The study is a collaboration between Ryder and private and public sector partners examining the region’s construction sector

Ryder Architecture, in collaboration with private and public sector partners and an international research organisation, has released a detailed study examining the breadth and depth of innovation in the north east construction sector.

The research is the first comprehensive study of its kind to have examined not only advanced technologies, materials and digital expertise, but also the supporting research and educational infrastructure, which is essential to the growth and success of the sector.

Ryder enlisted Vancouver based construction research specialists, Scius Advisory, to lead the project, having conducted similar studies for the Government of Canada. Scius was also able to provide an impartial, non-UK perspective. The evidence-based report involved detailed consultation with experts from industry, government and education, including interviews with over 50 individuals from these organisations.

Funding was provided by the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP), with support from Constructing Excellence North East (CENE) and its OneVoice initiative, in addition to industry partners, Hydrock, Black & White Engineering, and Ryder.

Attracting investment to the region and the development of a collaborative, sustainable community – committed to greater integration of technology, innovation and education – were amongst the main objectives of the report. The findings not only highlight the breadth and depth of expertise in the region and the successful export of specialist services and products, but also encourage greater adoption of innovative technologies, products and systems throughout the north east.

The publication of the research coincides with the imminent launch of the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority and provides a valuable opportunity to profile, celebrate and invigorate the construction innovation community in the region, benchmarking current success and helping to set targets for future growth.

Sandra Manson, executive director at Pegasus Group and chair of Developing Consensus, said: “We need to seize the opportunity of a new North East Mayoral Combined Authority to really set out a regional approach to driving innovation in the sector and to encourage engagement, best practice sharing, and also blow our own trumpet about the things that we do well.”

The study found the local market to be fiercely competitive, but this was identified as a positive, fostering creativity and helping to build a strong sense of collaboration and community. In particular, the region’s early leadership in Building Information Modelling (BIM) has resulted in a robust digital cluster with a global reputation, as well as a vibrant collective of advanced materials developers, which have applications in construction.

Charlie Hoult, executive chair at Opencast, elaborated: “We should encourage the building and testing of innovation here in the region as an example for the rest of the world. We have the potential to become a centre of innovation for global construction – to become the world standard in BIM.”

The report also highlights that the north east has a significant number of large companies with national and global reach, plentiful high quality research horsepower, as well as several innovative education programmes in the sector, that are attracting international attention. The report can be the catalyst for a strategic plan for growth and innovation in the sector and inform future investment in the region.

Peter Barker, partner at Ryder, said: “We’ve had some highly successful knowledge transfer partnerships with universities in the region, which prove that industry focused academics can work with our business to deliver ground breaking research in digital design, asset management and post occupancy evaluation, leading to proven business growth. There is a real appetite to drive innovation in the sector and this report shines a spotlight on the significant strengths and opportunities here in the north east.”

The research not only showcases the resilience of the north east construction sector during periods of socio-economic volatility, but also how it has flourished with enhanced education pathways that are attractive to both businesses and the workforce of tomorrow. In addition, the study highlights that the region is home to affordable rent and space for start-ups and acknowledges that it is a great place to live.

Helen Goodland, principal at Scius and lead researcher for the study said: “A robust innovation ecosystem is vital if the construction industry is to achieve its priorities of delivering affordable, quality housing and infrastructure in the quantity and at the speed required. The clustering – of industry, skilled people, and institutions – leads to faster innovation and more rapid gains in productivity. Studies such as this can help diagnose economic strengths and challenges and identify realistic ways to shape the region’s economic future.”

Following publication of the report in March 2024, the steering group will be chairing an event for stakeholders in the region, in May 2024, to discuss and debate the outcomes and develop a roadmap for implementation.

Read the full report