Lisa Deane: Collaboration can boost the bottom line

Recent reports that Scotland and the UK's productivity lags behind our international peers is an important call to action that we need to do things differently if we are to improve our long-term economic prospects.

'The construction industry of the future will be both low carbon and digitised,' says Lisa Deane. Picture: Contributed

Boosting productivity and profitability are key to maximising our chances of future economic success, and to achieve this we need to drive a much higher rate of innovation across the board. Yet finding the time and employing the right expertise to achieve this is often impractical for busy SMEs and PLCs.

Leveraging outside expertise, resources, and training is proven to help address this challenge by bringing fresh ideas and solutions to many business issues, particularly productivity problems.

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In Scotland, cross-sector collaboration between businesses, government and academic institutions will undoubtedly unlock growth and productivity while simultaneously raising competitiveness and innovation. Indeed Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) was set up to help drive more growth and innovation across the industry for this reason.

The Scottish construction industry of the future will be both low carbon and digitised, with offsite construction, material innovation, virtual reality technology and robotics likely to become central to most aspects of our built environments. People will need to become more skilled, as simpler tasks are more likely to be delivered by machines, and the industry’s impact on the environment also needs to be minimised.

At CSIC we see this requirement to transform as an opportunity for growth. We are investing in the future of the industry by connecting high-calibre MSc students with academic and industry partners to identify and address specific business challenges together.

The CSIC Collaborative Postgraduate Programme sees us working with 13 academic partners to place MSc students from a variety of relevant disciplines into ten-week residencies with industry partners where the students work with each host to identify and design a solution to meet a real-life business requirement. This will benefit all parties involved, and will introduce a fresh batch of highly-skilled, enthusiastic thinkers and potential leaders of tomorrow into an important industry.

The programme is designed to help graduates prepare for a career in the construction industry while simultaneously helping businesses leverage extra resources and new insights from an inter-disciplinary partnership between CSIC, universities and the students themselves.

Successful applicants will receive partial funding, free access to the prototyping and research amenities at our technological facility in Hamilton – opening this summer – ongoing training across a variety of topics, and access to dedicated programme support whenever they need it.

We aim to put at least 15 students through the programme this year, but hope to see this capacity increase to 30 once industry sees the tangible benefits of having a dedicated innovation resource. Our academic partners stand ready to work with us and are currently recruiting more talent to the programme. We are constantly looking out for industry partners to come on board too.

In addition to the Collaborative Postgraduate Programme, we provide training, advice, funding and partnership liaison for construction companies which need to solve a problem, develop a new product or process, or explore how a different approach might improve their bottom line.

There are eight innovation centres across Scotland covering everything from data to stratified medicine, all of which exist to help drive demand-led innovation. If you are a business in any industry, consider connecting with your relevant innovation centre.

When it comes to improving profit, productivity and our economic future through innovation the opportunities are endless.

Lisa Deane is skills and training manager at Construction Scotland Innovation Centre