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R&D task forces too costly for construction

THE GOVERNMENT'S flagship research and development programme is likely to be shunned by construction, the ICE warned this week.

The Office of Science and Technology has called on industry groups to set up task forces to develop more efficient construction techniques under the Technology Foresight initiative. But ICE research and innovation committee chairman Mike Thorn claimed the industry would steer clear of the initiative because no funds for the task forces were being made available.

'The cost of running these task forces will not be insignificant', he said. 'If it is incumbent on construction organisations to finance them many will just not do it'.

The ICE says it does not have sufficient resources to set up a task force. Instead it will only contribute existing research to the project.

'Unfortunately that is not taking things forward' admitted Thorn. 'If we don't anticipate developments in technology then the UK industry is in danger of being overtaken by competitors.'

The task forces will contribute to three Technology Foresight panels covering the built environment and transport, energy and natural environment and materials.

An OST spokeswoman denied that industry would be expected to finance the task forces itself. 'We do not pay people for sitting on the task forces but each panel will have its own budget to spend at their discretion,' she said.

The spokeswoman added that more than 2,000 people have so far expressed interest in the initiative at national level, but could give no specific figures for construction related activities.

The chairs of the Technology Foresight panels are expected to be announced next week.

Criticism of the initiative comes as a report on the future of the industry is published as part of National Construction Week. The document, commissioned by the Construction Industry Board, says UK construction R&D has fallen by 80% since 1981 and is not addressing the opportunities and threats of the future.

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