Deputy First Minister officially launches Construction Scotland Innovation Centre

Nicola Sturgeon and Bill McBride view Philadelphia from 115m high courtesy of Heriot Watt’s ICE project at The Construction Scotland Annual Conference
Nicola Sturgeon and Bill McBride view Philadelphia from 115m high courtesy of Heriot Watt’s ICE project at The Construction Scotland Annual Conference

The vital role that innovation has to play in the Scottish construction industry was reinforced by Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP in Glasgow yesterday when she officially launched the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.

Ms Sturgeon was joined at the event by Derek Mackay MSP, Minister for Local Government & Planning when they both addressed 300+ delegates gathered for Construction Scotland’s Annual Conference focused on achieving growth through innovation.

Describing the Innovation Centreas an “absolutely fantastic development for the industry”, the Deputy First Minister said the industry should be proud and excited about its potential for the future.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “Scotland has many creative, innovative companies and academic institutions capable of identifying growth opportunities and delivering industry solutions.

“We are supporting the international competitiveness of our universities by investing over £1 billion in higher education. We are also investing through the Scottish Funding Council £124 million over 6 years in a network of Scottish Innovation Centres allowing us to boost labour productivity and build on our highly-skilled workforces.

“Innovation Centres are about developing the best environment for businesses and academia to interact, taking innovative ambitious projects of excellence that have the potential to bring millions more to the economy and create thousands of jobs.

“The construction industry underpins all of Scotland’s key sectors and therefore underpins the success of our whole economy. Working together we can create the best environment for our businesses to thrive in partnership with academia to achieve our goals and aspirations for the sector.”

In her speech to delegates, Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will take a hard line on blacklisting in the industry. She said that firms caught participating in the practice will be charged with “great professional misconduct” and banned from bidding for public sector contracts.

The Deputy First Minister said she recognises the perceived problem of public sector procurement focusing on cost rather than quality and design saying there is “a huge emphasis on getting more bang for our buck”, particularly when using public money, “make no apologies for that”.

“But it should never come at a cost of poor quality. We are taking very determined approach and will take on recommendations in the upcoming review into public sector procurement which we hope will take us on way to delivering better quality.”

Ray on stage 2
Ray O’Rourke on stage

Ray O’Rourke – founder and chair of global engineering and construction group Laing O’Rourke – delivered a keynote address during the afternoon session, emphasising how being innovative has been central to his company’s success in the industry.

Making no excuses for imitating companies in other industries, he said Laing O’Rourke looked to the automotive, aviation and shipbuilding industries for their innovations and asked “Why can’t we do it in construction?”

Embracing technology would, he said, attract young people and women into the industry.

He added: “Making the change from trades to technicians will take massive commitment from everybody but we can do it.”

The Construction Scotland Innovation Centre was established in March 2014 and is the hub to connect the 31,000 plus businesses in the Scottish construction industry with academic expertise. This unique partnership between the industry, academia and Government, aims to be a catalyst to drive growth and profit in the construction industry in Scotland. Initial funding of £7.5m was received in spring 2014, with an additional £2m for capital equipment subsequently obtained.

Financed by the Scottish Funding Council, the Innovation Centre is supported by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and 11 of Scotland’s universities - University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow School of Art, Heriot Watt University, University of Highlands & Islands, Robert Gordon University, University of Strathclyde, and University of West of Scotland.

Bill McBride, interim Chair of the Innovation Centre, said: “Today has been a great one for all of us who have been involved in shaping the structure and business plan for the Innovation Centre, particularly as we are now able to, figuratively speaking, open our doors to the industry and invite construction-related companies to engage with us and begin establishing relationships that will help us help them make innovative ideas and projects a reality.

“The Deputy First Minister has been supportive of both Construction Scotland and the Innovation Centre from the outset and we’re honoured that she was able to take the time to join us this morning. For that we thank her and her Ministerial colleague Derek Mackay MSP and we look forward to keeping them informed of progress over the coming months.”

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