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Kier, nPlan and Keltbray win innovation funding


Kier, nPlan and Keltbray have received a government grant for research and innovation projects.

Of the government’s £18M Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, a total of £13.3M has been awarded to 24 projects.

Among the projects to share the £13.3M is one by nPlan, Kier and the University of Cambridge which will use artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms to better predict, plan and schedule construction projects.

Another project to win a share of the £13.3M is being carried out by a consortium including housebuilder Barratt Developments and L&Q. It will explore how offsite manufacturing can bring down costs, reduce defects and improve productivity.

A Keltbray-led project to develop a new piling technology that will enhance capacity and improve sustainability when laying foundations has also received funding.

An additional £5M from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will support research leaders of four projects as they build teams to work on a complex research programme which seeks to transform the industry.

This includes research into the potential for digitally-designed, 3D-printed concrete components as well as research into the use of robots for on and off-site construction.

Another project will look at integrating voice-activated AI and augmented reality to assemble components, speeding up construction and increasing productivity.

UKRI chief executive Sir Mark Walport said: “Technologies being developed in the UK provide a significant opportunity to transform the way we build, such as the use of augmented reality to improve design or robotics to aid complex building assembly.

“Through projects such as these, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund allows us to catalyse innovation across the UK’s construction industry, improving productivity, sustainability and safety.”

Last month, millions of pounds in funding from the government’s Industrial Strategy was also set aside for British robotics experts to develop tiny robots capable of operating and repairing pipework from the inside.

Research to develop the tiny drones, and variations capable of flight and others operating underwater, won a £7M share of the £27M fund.

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