skip to content

Centre for Digital Built Britain

Blog from Amelia Burnett on the Engagement Programme

The Centre for Digital Built Britain’s (CDBB) engagement programme works across research, industry and policy to champion digital transformation. Amelia Burnett, Head of Engagement for CDBB, heralds the change.

The CDBB engagement programme spans three key areas to support the wider digital agenda. We work to build the research capability, both here at the University of Cambridge and at other institutions and centres across the UK. This ensures that the best possible people are delivering the research we need to progress the digital built Britain vision.

Supporting a programme of significant change requires sharing examples of value and use cases to highlight the best possible practice to help drive the bigger digital transformation of the wider infrastructure and construction sector. We also work to ensure the evidence and the outputs of the Centre’s research and work with industry informs government policy to initiate real change.

Our engagement programme is very broad and interdisciplinary. We work widely and openly to optimise the alignment of research, industry and policy that underpins the UK’s digital transformation. In the research space, the Centre’s remit is to promote the tools and technologies that will help enhance the built and natural environment to deliver better services and experience for the end user – the citizens of this country. There is a huge social component to this and we work with social scientists as well as the people developing the technologies. For that reason the research programme is inclusively broad and we collaborate widely.

The same goes for industry. Industry generally is responding well to digital transformation. The BIM mandate in 2016 provided a huge impetus for change and has catalysed many companies in the construction sector to begin their digital journey by implementing good practice using the standards. If we look more broadly at the sector, organisation including Highways England, Transport for London and Network Rail are really making the case for taking a digital approach to leverage whole-life value of assets. Tech and BIM are feeding into smart asset management and making considerable savings for these organisations. The more UK companies can see the benefit for change, the more change will happen.

There is a huge supply chain in the construction sector and we must make sure that the Centre is talking with and relevant to everybody, from large companies to small SMEs. Smaller companies may not have the IT infrastructure in place to implement change, so we need to work very hard to deliver a strong case for making the digital journey. We need a programme that can evidence the value and use case for digital technology in a way that makes sense to the entire sector, from large multi-nationals to small SMEs – of which there are tens of thousands in construction. 

While there is work to be done, achievements have been made. The UK is leading the world in terms of being a country ready for digital transformation. There is currently a strong drive and support from government for a digital and advanced manufacturing construction approach to the way we design, build and operate our built environment, and the way we integrate the services these assets deliver to meet citizens’ needs.

This drive and support is present in a number of recent policy documents, including Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) by the Infrastructure Projects Authority (IPA), the latest Construction Sector Deal as well as the broader tone of the Industrial Strategy that show real willingness from government to support change. This emerges in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (Innovate UK and EPSRC) that supports the work of businesses as well as researchers to make the case for digital change. Institutional bodies, including the Institution for Civil Engineers (ICE), are making great strides in this area to support its members in adapting to and adopting digital. 

The newly-announced Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG) that has been formed following recommendations in the National Infrastructure Commission’s report Data for the Public Good will be key to securing the information management landscape, integration and inter-operability that a framework for a national digital twin for infrastructure data requires.

Standards are also key to digital transformation. The Centre is working closely with the British Standards Institution (bsi) and Dr Anne Kemp, the convener for the international committee looking at adopting the PAS1192 standards into the international standards. The Centre’s Home Nations Working Group brings together representatives from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make sure there is consistent feedback into the standards and organisations across the UK are able to understand what is required of them. Internationally we are seeing very good alignment with international standards to the UK standards, which is great testament to the work the UK BIM Task Group, a predecessors for the Centre, achieved.

In a post-Brexit world it will be crucial for the UK to deliver the best value for money in terms of its own infrastructure. Companies leading the way in digital will be able to exploit new markets and export skills and products overseas.

The UK now has an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from the transformation to digital that is supported by government policy, research programmes and a broader attitude by industry to be ready and willing for change.

Contact:  , Head of Engagement, CDBB