skip to content

Centre for Digital Built Britain

Blog: Alexandra Bolton and data-informed opportunities

Following the Government’s response to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) report Data for the Public Good that tasks CDBB with forming the Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG), Alexandra Bolton, Deputy Director of the Centre, looks forward to data-informed opportunities ahead.

The Government’s response to the NIC report Data for the Public Good includes tasking the Centre to form the DFTG that will collaborate with industry, policy makers and academia to develop and encourage adoption of a digital framework for infrastructure data. This decision reflects positively on the Centre and the progress made by the CDBB team to date.  

Mark Enzer, Chief Technology Officer for Mott MacDonald, will chair the DFTG and, as a highly-respected champion of innovation in the construction and infrastructure sectors, his leadership will be a valuable asset.  As Mark set out in his CDBB blog published here last week, we, as a sector, have an opportunity to “recognise that infrastructure is an information-based industry, in which better decisions, based on better data, lead to better outcomes for the ultimate customers – our citizens”. It is a timely opportunity and invites a strategic response across the sector. The first official meeting of the DFTG will take place in September with a view to reporting to Government at the end of this year. I look forward to sharing more details in the future.

We were delighted to welcome the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick (MP) to Cambridge last week (19 July) when he officially launched the formation of the DFTG and confirmed government commitment to supporting innovation to enable the transformative power of data in the delivery of infrastructure. The visit was also a chance to showcase some of the technologies and tools developed by researchers from a number of Schools and Centres across the University, including CDBB, the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC), the Laing O’Rourke Centre for Construction and Engineering Technology and Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research.

Other organisations with which CDBB works closely, including Bryden Wood – specialists in offsite and advanced construction techniques – and Innovate UK were also present; Jaimie Johnston, Director and Head of Global Systems at Bryden Wood, presented his work on platform architecture using manufacturing assembly methods that could unlock benefits for construction. The Minister was shown blocks of brick façade manufactured by prison industries that forms part of a project to up-skill prisoners in a bid to reduce reoffending; the potential benefits of using manufacturing assembly methods in construction are published in the 2018 CDBB/Bryden Wood report titled Platforms: Bridging the gap between construction + manufacturing

The Centre’s international work was also represented at the event. Adam Matthews, lead for the international programme, explained how CDBB links with countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa to create commercial opportunities between UK and partner countries by creating common understanding and establishing standards that support global trade and in-country prosperity.  

The Minister and his team took a great interest in our work, commended collaboration between research, industry and government, and emphasised government commitment to exploit innovations in emerging technologies, digital construction and manufacturing to better design, build, operate and integrate the built environment. His belief that “through these partnerships between the public and private sectors we can deliver real change for our economy, our society and our country” resonates with the Centre’s mission and vision.

I am very much looking forward to the Centre’s Summer Showcase and Lunch Event next week on 30 July at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. This is a chance to learn more about the outputs of the Centre’s 2018 mini-projects and funded Research Networks. It is also an invitation to interested individuals and organisations to find out about future funding calls and how to work with us to shape CDBB’s Research Framework. If you have any questions on the day do please come and find me. The Centre is an interdisciplinary and open programme and we always welcome ideas and approaches to engage with us.