Consortium secures £1m boost for construction industry

Martin McDonnell, chairman of Soluis Group

Consortium secures £1m boost for construction industry

A consortium has secured £1m of funding from Innovate UK to develop an Augmented Worker System (AWE), pioneering the use of virtual and augmented reality for the construction industry.

The system will enable the intelligent design, construction, and maintenance of buildings, and will target a 25% reduction in cost, 25% reduction in waste, and increased productivity of 30% for projects.

Glasgow-based Solius Group, which is leading the consortium, will work with partner organisations with skills, knowledge and connections in the industry, including information systems consultancy Pinnacle Business Solutions; construction company Carbon Dynamic, and two high value manufacturing catapult centres – the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC).

The consortium will also be supported by industry organisations that will comprise a steering group. These include AECOM, Doosan Babcock, Laing O’Rourke, Autodesk and Microsoft.

The government has been investing in the construction sector through its Digital Built Britain (DBB) programme, with hopes that the industry will be able to deliver faster builds to a higher quality with fewer defects and more sustainable buildings.

The Augmented Worker System will provide the construction industry with augmented and virtual reality to improve the construction process at every stage, in order to meet the DBB Building Information Modelling (BIM) level mandated by the UK Government.  

Business secretary Greg Clark said: “Research and innovation are at the heart of the Government’s vision for a modern Industrial Strategy. The adoption of cutting-edge virtual and augmented reality technology in industries like construction will be vital in helping us identify new, smarter ways of working.

“This Government-backed initiative will help build the UK’s reputation and expertise in the pioneering use of this technology, while helping make construction projects of the future more efficient, cost effective and productive.”

Soluis Group has already developed an augmented reality asset management tool, In-Site, that was piloted at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station with Laing O’Rourke.

Martin McDonnell, chairman of Soluis Group said: “The proof of concept project with Crossrail showed how this technology could be applied and add incredible value to the industry. Our vision was to develop this concept much further and create a set of tools that would form the augmented worker of the future. For a business like us, we could only drive this innovation a certain amount and working with the consortium and receiving funding from Innovate UK will help us achieve this much faster and more effectively.”

The AWE system will be designed to drive greater certainty, safety, efficiency and sustainability through five key areas – co-design, digital job guidance, progress monitoring, safety guidance and asset management.

It is hoped that by reducing the need for paper or mobile based handheld devices, workers will have a hands-free solution for a greater level of safety whilst providing real-time visualisation on-site. 

The funding was awarded by Innovate UK as part of the Infrastructure Systems competition which aims to stimulate innovation that creates UK business growth in infrastructure systems.  

The project will launch on September 1 with a kick off meeting attended by the consortium organisations.