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Centre for Digital Built Britain

Visit by Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury announces launch of the Centre for Digital Built Britain' Digital Framework Task Group during visit to the University of Cambridge

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick (MP) announced the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) will deliver key recommendations from the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) Data for the Public Good report during his visit to the University of Cambridge yesterday (19 July).

The visit, hosted by CDBB and the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction at the University’s first ‘smart’ building, showcased a range of innovative and emerging technologies from a number of the University’s schools and research centres.   

In his speech made at the Department of Engineering the Minister acknowledged the Government’s response to the NIC report, published yesterday, that tasks CDBB with the creation of the Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG) to draw together key organisations and initiatives to steer and guide the successful development and Mark Enzeradoption of a digital framework for infrastructure data. The Minister announced that Mark Enzer, Chief Technology Officer at global engineering and development firm Mott MacDonald, will chair the newly formed DFTG.

Addressing an invited audience at the James Dyson Building, the Minister outlined government commitment to supporting transformation to digital construction and infrastructure.

He said: “Today we are asking the Centre for Digital Built Britain to launch a new Task Group, to help us realise the full value of data for UK Infrastructure. It will bring together government, industry, academia and regulators to drive up the quality and openness of infrastructure data. The group will advise on how we can set common standards and tear down barriers to data sharing, all to increase the efficiency of construction projects and deliver high-performing infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

“In our current plans, through the Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme, we already commit to using data and technology to transform the way we build and manage infrastructure. We have made it clear that we want to develop ‘smarter construction’ through the use of modern manufacturing techniques. But we also agree with the National Infrastructure Commission that we can and must go further. There is vast bank of data on the UK’s infrastructure which, thanks to an increasing array of sensors and gadgets, expands by the day. But too often this is not being used in a strategic, joined-up way which limits our potential.”

The Minister, who was accompanied by his team from the Treasury, made reference to the UK’s productivity challenge and historical underinvestment in infrastructure, but emphasised government commitment to supporting innovation to enable the transformative power of data in the delivery of infrastructure.

He said: “We know that warm words won’t be enough to effect the change that we need. That’s why at the last Budget we announced a new £170 million Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to support innovation and transform productivity in the construction sector.

JenrickUp to £72 million of this fund will be invested to establish a new Innovation Hub; a consortium of the brightest minds and innovators in this space. It will help develop and commercialise digital and manufacturing technologies – turning our world-renowned research towards practical application for projects on the ground. Professor Sir Mark Walport is overseeing the rigorous competitive process and I look forward to the winning bid being announced very soon.”

The Minister, who is a former University of Cambridge student, said: “I’m really proud that my old university has made its case through the Centre for Digital Built Britain. It shows that Cambridge continues to seek to harness the potential of its world-class research by developing partnerships with government and industry.

“I really believe that through these partnerships between the public and private sectors we can deliver real change for our economy, our society and our country.”

Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor: Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Centre for Digital Built Britain, welcomed the Minister to the Department of Engineering. He said: “The University’s research agenda supports the Government’s ambition for change as expressed through the Industrial Strategy and reports including Transforming Infrastructure Performance, Digital Strategy, Construction Sector Deal, Transforming Construction Grand Challenge and the National Infrastructure Commission’s Data for the Public Good.

“It does this by working with academics across all of the University’s six schools to deliver the technical, social and economic research needed to understand how to exploit innovations in emerging technologies, digital construction and manufacturing to better design, build, operate and integrate the built environment.

“This multidisciplinary approach is led by CDBB, a joint partnership between the University of Cambridge and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industry Services (BEIS) funded at Budget 2017.”

neely and jenrickProfessor Neely highlighted the importance of collaboration between academia, industry and government to ensure that innovative research outputs are quickly embedded in professional practice.

“Digital technologies are shaping all industrial sectors and will have a profound impact on construction. The core aim of the DFTG is to ensure that the UK is well positioned to capitalise on the use of data for the public good in the UK’s economic infrastructure and the wider built and natural environments. To achieve this the DFTG will collaborate closely with industry, policy makers and academia to develop and encourage adoption of the digital framework for infrastructure data. The framework will unlock the potential of digital twins and the next generation of digital construction and smarter infrastructure advances.”

Bringing focus to the wider benefits of transforming construction, he said: “The construction sector contributes eight per cent to the economy, so the benefits of productivity gains through digital approaches and modern methods of construction are important and significant to the growth of the national economy and social wellbeing.

“A transformed sector will not only improve national productivity – it will grow new career, business and export opportunities for the UK.”

The Minister met with some of the social scientists, computer scientists and engineers from a number of centres and schools across the University including CDBB, the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC), the Laing O’Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology, Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research and university spin-out company Epsimon. Representatives from InnovateUK and Bryden Wood, specialists in offsite and advanced construction techniques, also attended the event.

HololensDr Jennifer Schooling, Director of CSIC, and Professor Neely introduced the Minister to researchers who showcased a range of innovative and emerging technologies including: machine learning and AI for the built environment; autonomous image recapture using drones and computer vision techniques; the CDBB digital twin project; Microsoft HoloLens demonstration; acoustic sensing; a self-sensing bridge; and fibre optic sensors demonstrated at the CSIC lab.

The Minister was also introduced to members of the CDBB team including Alexandra Bolton, Deputy Director, Dr Barry Blackwell, Head of Digital Transformation (Construction and Built Environment) BEIS, Amelia Burnett, Head of Engagement, Adam Matthews, CDBB International Programme Lead and Alex Luck, Security Lead.

The first official meeting of the DFTG will take place in September.