John Hunt, Senior Market Advisor for Construction at Enterprise Ireland, describes how strong partnerships will support the sector through challenges in the international landscape.
Two recent government announcements have major implications for the High-tech Construction sector in the UK.
Construction landed one of the latest rounds of sector deals worth up to £250m, as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy unveiled earlier this week. The Budget gave a massive boost to offsite construction, which will be favoured for public infrastructure schemes from 2019. Commitments to housebuilding and the announcement of a £34m investment in teaching construction skills, with a further £30m invested in digital courses using artificial intelligence, were all well received.
While the drive to improve offsite, digital and construction skills is good news for the industry, labour shortages for infrastructure and housing remain a major concern ahead of Brexit. The UK will require 400,000 new construction workers every year until 2021 (Source: Arcadis, 2017) to deliver all planned projects in the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan (NIDP), even before Brexit-related immigration issues are taken into account. It will not be possible to fill these roles simply by training more people or through the increased use of technology and automation, at least in the short term. Collaboration with strong partners will be key.
Strong digital capabilities from an established partner
With trade in Irish products and services to the UK increasing by 68% over the past five years, to €1.29bn in 2016, Irish companies are uniquely positioned to support the requirements the UK construction sector.
Building on strong domestic capacity, Ireland’s construction sector produces a diverse array of companies with several hundred organisations already trading in the UK – providing a vital skills injection. A recent Enterprise Ireland Digital Transition Survey showed that Ireland’s digital capabilities are deepening, with 76% of AEC organisations confident in BIM knowledge and skills.
Irish capability in Construction at work
A number of Irish companies already provide innovative construction solutions to the UK market. John Sisk & Son was recently appointed by Quintain to carry out the construction of 745 build-to-rent apartments on its Canada Court scheme at Wembley. Quintain chose Sisk as a partner due to a “shared focus on providing the most efficient design for the product they were creating as well as embracing BIM”. Sisk has also been awarded the development of a large data centre campus by a multinational client, which was designated as a pilot scheme project of good BIM practice for any future international data centre projects.
Irish off-site construction company Shay Murtagh has completed a contract for precast tunnel linings on the Crossrail project and is currently supplying the Mersey Gateway project as well as a number of National Rail improvement projects.
Despite recent economic uncertainty, Ireland continues to be a first-point partner for the UK. Enterprise Ireland is an Irish government agency that helps companies to scale internationally through tailored professional advice, funding, skills development, sector expertise and access to connected networks. Enterprise Ireland client companies export over €550m a month to the UK. Trade between the UK and Ireland directly supports 400,000 jobs, approximately half of which are in the UK. With innovation and creativity being at the heart of Ireland’s economy and society, Enterprise Ireland is encouraging more UK construction companies to consider Ireland as a partner that can help grow their business.
Contact John Hunt to discuss how Enterprise Ireland can help you source strong Construction partners.