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Raft of projects announced for digital engineering boost

A raft of projects aimed at finding new applications for digital engineering in construction projects have kicked off this week after sharing £5.6M of grant funding from the government’s innovation agency Innovate UK.

Each of the 10 projects is to be led by a major industry contractor or supplier, and each will be done in partnership with others within the supply chain.

Laing O’Rourke will be leading on the automated manufacture of a set of standardised, validated parts and sub-assemblies for the most common bridge types. It said nothing previously has been attempted at this scale and with this potential for efficiency.

Laing O’Rourke’s Explore Manufacturing director Alan Clucas said the project was being driven by High Speed 2’s desire to create a “new way” of standardising bridges. He said the project would build on work already done for the Highways Agency with Tony Gee, which is a project partner in the research project alongside the University of Cambridge.

All 10 projects draw on the UK’s evolving expertise in BIM expertise, explained Mark Wray, lead technologist at Innovate UK’s Low Impact Building Innovation Platform.

“The principal enabler is BIM,” he said. “The expertise is growing and we realised what was needed was products and services. How does the man or woman in the supply chain engage with the process?”

Wray unveiled the 10 projects winning funding at NCE’s Future Technology Steering Group late last month.

Projects that attracted most attention alongside Laing O’Rourke’s bridge standardisation initiative included a Balfour Beatty initiative to develop an open source cloud-based 3D BIM platform to reduce the time and cost spent on tendering, MIRA-led work to transfer defence systems into construction plant to boost augmented reality working, and Skanska-led work to develop a solution for real-time tracking of component status during manufacture which can utilise different tag/track approaches.

Balfour Beatty said its cloud-based tendering platform would be a “disruptive model” enabling wider take up, enabling main contractors to manage and digitally distribute tendering proposals and the subcontractors to bid online direct in to a BIM model. The solution will be based on an existing open source framework developed at UCL.  

Skanska said it will develop a schema to capture data from multiple supply chains in a standard format for integration into 4D BIM models. It said implementation would accelerate uptake of BIM throughout supply chains, contributing to an estimated 20% efficiency improvement.  

The full list

SaaS tool for Tier 2           4Projects

BIM enabled tendering   Balfour Beatty

Tag & track system          Skanska

Subsurface BIM data      Keynetix

Product ID system           RIBA Enterprises

BIM 4 Bridges                  Laing O’Rourke

BIM 4 Custom Build         Stickyworld

BIM automated machines MIRA

Mobile BIM                      Balfour Beatty

BIM FM                           Welplan

*Projects will last 18 to 24 months

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