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Construction leader calls for SME involvement in £420M sector deal

Construction of riverside south (canary wharf) in london, spring 2013 (7)

Incoming Construction Leadership Council (CLC) co-chair Andy Mitchell has called for greater involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the government’s construction sector deal. 

Published in July by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) the £420M sector deal covers research and development (R&D) and innovation. 

However, Mitchell argues that the deal does not go far enough to include SMEs, arguing that the industry needs “coherence and clarity” across all tiers to progress. In fact, Mitchell told New Civil Engineer that innovation in the sector would be driven only if SMEs are at the forefront. 

“Going around this briefing room, how many SMEs are here? One or two maybe, how many associations representing SMEs are here? None, this can’t be right,” he said. 

“It’s easy to get to the big companies because they are obvious, but where is innovation going to come from, it’s going to come from the lower tiers and the SMEs and we just have to turn this around.

“This issue of many different groups across the industry having different ways of looking at things is a real issue and is the heart of my plans as the co-chair of the CLC”. 

Mitchell was speaking at the third CLC Leaders’ Briefing about the upcoming construction sector deal worth £420M in match-funding towards innovation and research and development for the sector. £170m of the deal is earmarked for innovations that will increase industry productivity, with a target of 50% reduction in time of construction for new builds by 2025. 

BEIS secretary Richard Harrington said: “The sector deal is important part of the BEIS industrial strategy. Without the government acting as a catalyst it is a lot more difficult for competitors [to cooperate].

“As far as the construction industry is concerned, there is fragmentation, and short-term contracts which affect skills issues.” 

He added: “Over the years we have presided over increasing fragmentation of the industry, there is a distinct and progress-stopping lack of coherence and consistency in what we say and what we do, this needs to stop.

“This [the sector deal] is only going to work if the industry works together to do things once, together, instead of separately and differently. The role of the CLC going forward will be convening and communicating.” 

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