UK Construction Companies Struggling to Implement New Technologies

A new report by industry-leading digital construction, real estate and facilities management platform PlanRadar reveals that construction sector digitalisation has stagnated.

The most startling finding is that 77% of respondents are struggling to implement new technologies. However, whilst the UK was among the most adept nations, only around a quarter of companies polled (28%) say implementation is easy or very easy. 

Surveying over 1300 construction professionals across 15 countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain, the study examined existing levels of digitalisation in the construction and real estate sector, as well as its growth prospects over the next three years.

Unsurprisingly, given the implementation challenges, a high proportion of companies haven’t invested in emerging technologies like 3D printing (80%), robotics (82%) and artificial intelligence (74%). Technology fields that received the most investment were energy efficiency and renewable energy (26%), BIM (19%) and construction management software and platforms (19%).

Looking at construction teams using this tech, the data suggests the sector has a long way to go in terms of digitalisation. Almost two thirds of professionals have not seen a recent increase in the number of digital role hires in their companies.

Investment hotspots

The research revealed the main area of technology investment to be construction and real estate management software, with 77% of respondents saying they expect to see an increase in investment in the next three years.

This correlates with the 95% of the respondents who have seen cost savings using proptech, 35% of which estimate between 10% and 30% savings. Over two thirds of respondents also expect growth in digital solutions that support environmental commitments, regulating energy efficiency and renewable energy. Finally, reflecting its utility across various applications in construction, Building Information Modelling methodology also stood out as a tool expected to receive significant investment, according to two thirds of respondents.

Perhaps a product of significant headways already made, UK businesses were amongst the lowest percentage of respondents who expect their companies to increase investment in technology, across the combined technology categories surveyed.

Challenges implementing new tech

Most (8 out of 15) of the countries surveyed consider the traditional view of stakeholders as the main challenge holding back the introduction of new technology. Perception of low return on investment came in a close second, as flagged by over a fifth of UK companies, 28% of those in France, and just under a quarter in Austria and Germany. The cost of implementation was the main barrier for the UK (26%).

Growth prospects

Over half of respondents expect their companies to invest at least 11% more in digitalisation. The UK is aiming lower with only 46% of businesses anticipating the same level of investment. Meanwhile, just under a quarter of respondents predict this percentage to be more than 31%, led by Australia (39%), Hungary (27%) and Romania (30%). 

UK Director at PlanRadar Robert Norton shared his thoughts on the findings, “These results show a construction sector in need of support reaching the next step in its digital transformation. There’s no doubt that if the right solution is implemented, boosting investment in emerging and established technologies will enhance project efficiency and performance. An industry-wide collaborative approach between vendors and contractors will be central to future prospects to bridge any communication divides and showcase the true value of leading solutions from supporting net-zero ambitions to seismic cost savings.”

More insights from PlanRadar’s Ebook, ‘Digitalisation In the Construction and Real Estate Sector’, can be found here.