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User-friendly initiative

Futures

Next year sees the launch of a new marketing and development organisation aimed at helping UK concrete users. NCE reports.

For some time now, a group of senior cement and concrete industry executives has been meeting and discussing how a new strategy could be established to serve the construction industry in its choice of concrete. This has been carried out under the working title Concrete thinking. As a result, an organisation is being set up for launch next summer.

The organisation will work in the interests of all those involved in the design and use of concrete - major client companies, architectural practices, civil and structural engineering consultancies, building/civil engineering contractors and house- builders.

Staffed by qualified professionals with backgrounds in concrete construction, concrete technology, engineering and architecture, it will focus on every aspect of concrete use in all sectors of the industry including infrastructure projects (road, rail, airport, bridge and other civil engineering works), house-building, all types of framed structures for industrial, commercial and retail buildings, pipes, architectural cladding, flooring, paving blocks, and other products/areas where concrete is used.

The organisation's prime aim will be to help designers and constructors get the best out of concrete, so improving their effectiveness and profitability.

It will do this by providing:

lA rapid response helpline for all questions relating to the use and performance of concrete;

lWorld-class education and training resources;

lA central focus where experts in concrete construction will be on hand to assist and advise; and lA centre for the management of research, development and innovation in concrete.

Funding will come from a board consisting of the major cement and concrete companies. Its name will be announced at its launch next year. Initially there will be around 30 full-time staff, rising to 42 the following year, based in the Thames Valley.

The organisation will work closely with existing trade associations, societies/institutes and industry interest groups operating within the concrete sector. It is felt that its creation will improve their effectiveness and help to provide a more central focus for concrete to the whole construction industry.

In particular, the organisation will work closely with important concrete industry bodies such as the British Precast Concrete Federation, the British ReadyMix Concrete Association and The Concrete Society to pursue common aims. It will also work closely with the British Cement Association and the BCA/ Concrete Society joint venture, Concrete Information Ltd. The Reinforced Concrete Council (RCC) and the Ready-mixed Concrete Bureau (RCB) will be integrated into the organisation.

The task of setting up the new organisation is the responsibility of development director Ian Cox, who has joined the industry from steel producer Corus.

Cox joined the then British Steel in the early 1980s as part of the team charged with increasing the market share of structural steelwork against competing materials. After several years in this role, he returned to mainstream construction until 1994 when he was asked to return to the steel industry as education manager at the Steel Construction Institute.

In 1997, Cox rejoined British Steel to lead the market development of structural frames and, in 1998, this led to the creation of the Steel Construction Centre.

He is a chartered structural, civil and highway engineer and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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