Scotland’s construction sector must think globally

Alistair McKinnon says Scots firms must be ready to take global opportunities. Picture: TSPL

Alistair McKinnon says Scots firms must be ready to take global opportunities. Picture: TSPL

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MUCH has been written about the state of the construction industry in Scotland over the past few years. Unfortunately not enough of that has been good news.

There is no doubt the sector has experienced the full force of the economic problems that have rocked a number of our key industries since the credit crunch hit in 2008.

It is simply no longer an option for traditional construction companies in Scotland to stand still and just hope the good times come back at some point.

They must find ways of innovating and developing new products and services that can make them money both now and long into the future.

One way of doing that is to start thinking global rather than local.

We already have companies who are doing some very, very clever things and making inroads into foreign markets such as the United States and Asia.

They have developed products and services at a local level, then found buyers for them abroad in regions where levels of construction activity are higher than at home.

One area in particular where Scottish firms have already made a strong impression is in the low carbon technology market.

New regulations and incentives around low carbon and environmental building practices will increasingly influence the design and construction of infrastructure both at home and abroad.

Scotland already leads the market in simulation software for building modeling, and it is innovations like this along with combined heat and power generation and heat exchange and recovery systems, the use of sustainable building materials and modern methods of construction that will drive the sector forward.

With overall sales in the low carbon sector predicted to increase from £1.1bn to around £1.9bn by 2020 it is essential that Scottish companies take a claim for a slice of that growing market.

Therefore it is essential that Scotland’s construction industry redoubles its efforts to think smart and think big, and support is available for those who wish to make the leap on to the world stage.

The question is; who is ready to seize the opportunity?

• Alistair McKinnon is head of construction at Scottish Enterprise

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