Enterprise Ireland’s experienced market advisors (MAs) provide expert guidance to Irish businesses expanding into the UK market and engaging with their British clients. In the second of our series, we catch up with John Hunt, Senior UK Market Advisor for the construction sector.
Hi John, hope you’re well? Let’s start at the top – how do you work with the UK construction sector?
“Enterprise Ireland supports the most innovative and capable Irish companies to grow in international markets. Our UK offices in London and Manchester specifically match Ireland’s most innovative products and services to the evolving needs of UK partners and customers. We work with UK based organisations, offering a single point of access to a portfolio of over 300 companies operating across the UK construction sector.”
That must keep you busy! What are the main trends you see in your industry?
“Unlike many other sectors, construction is at an early stage of industrialisation. That makes it a very exciting industry to be in.
“Across the globe, each project tends to be bespoke which leaves little opportunity for standardisation or repeatable efficiencies. But digital tools and processes are now connecting design, manufacture and assembly, and it’s in that niche that we are beginning to see the potential for a productivity transformation.
“Within Europe, the UK and Ireland are at the forefront of this transformation, a leading position that’s important to sustain.”
That does sound exciting – can you tell us about what you’re working on at the moment?
“For the past 5 years we have been investing in new technology companies, supporting mature companies in their digital transformations, accelerating collaboration and sharing best practice between international markets.
Currently, my colleagues and I are working on a Digital Showcase event, a Pecha Kucha style presentation of our most successful ‘digital disruptors’ on the Keynote stage of London’s Digital Construction Week.”
And what companies are you supporting right now?
“There is a lot of emphasis on the companies that support increased productivity, in particular off-site manufacturing and those companies that can integrate into digital supply chains or offer digital tools.
“I don’t want to pick any favourites! But at the moment, I’m working with about 50 companies of all sizes across manufacturing, services and technology.”
Ok, that’s fair! What does a typical day look like for you?
“I’m based in our London Office on Shaftesbury Avenue. In my day-to-day, I support a number of Construction Advisors within Enterprise Ireland’s Global team and work closely with the sector team based out of Dublin. Typically, we’ll have a Skype Conference call at one end of the day where we coordinate the market plans for our clients working across multiple countries.
The majority of our clients have offices in the UK, so I’m often travelling between, or attending, meetings or sector specific events. We organise a significant number of events during the year, from tailored itineraries for overseas companies discovering new partners in Ireland, knowledge events, trade fairs and a mix of network receptions and dinners. At any one time we’ll be planning, executing or following up a sector event.
Given the large number of our client companies that are based in the UK, their health and growth is closely aligned to the UK construction market’s success. I work with a number of collaborative industry initiatives and support different research projects to progress the market’s evolution.”
What do you see as the main challenges for your industry in the future?
“The capacity of the industry to successfully embrace digital technology and new process will present the opportunity to disrupt while conversely, a successful transition will decrease the likelihood of our markets being disrupted by entrants from other sectors.
“Key challenges to digital transition include the existing culture, the fragmented nature of the industry, historically low levels of profitability, high levels of market uncertainty and regressive approaches to public and private procurement. The solution will most likely incorporate bold collaborative solutions that overcome inertia and resistance to change.”