July 4, 2012
New institute aims to increase construction innovation
The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) is in the early stages of establishing a new research institute to promote innovation in the industry.
Canadian Construction Innovations’ goal is to increase competitiveness, productivity and financial performance.
“We put a steering committee together to establish an institute to increase investment in research and development in the Canadian construction industry,” said Don Whitmore, chair of the Canadian Construction Innovations steering committee.
“We have already had several meetings and put together a good steering committee.”
Canada’s private sector has historically lagged behind other countries in terms of business investment in research relative to the size of the national economy.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Gross Domestic Expenditure on research and development (R&D) as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Canada was about 1.9 per cent in 2010, compared to an average of 2.5 per cent for all 34 OECD member countries.
For comparison, Israel was the only country that invested more than 4.0 per cent of its GDP on R&D. Other examples of the highest investors in R&D as a percentage of GDP are Finland (3.9 per cent), Korea (3.8 per cent), Sweden (3.5 per cent), Japan (3.2 per cent), Denmark (3.1 per cent) and Switzerland (3 per cent) and the United States (2.9 per cent).
In response to this gap, the CCA is establishing Canadian Construction Innovations to increase private sector investment in R&D.
It will also commercialize research into products and processes that generate new business opportunities and stimulate economic growth.
The Canadian Construction Innovations steering committee is planning to start roundtable discussions by the end of August with the aim of developing a framework for promoting collaboration and innovation in the industry.
Whitmore said discussions will be held at venues in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
“Construction is largely a service industry that responds to the needs of owners and what they would like to build,” said Whitmore.
“We are going to include all the stakeholders, including owners, contractors, architects, engineers and suppliers in this initiative. Using this group, we are moving out to develop through a series of round table discussions across the country.”
Meetings will also be held with the National Research Council, the Industrial Research Assistance, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Mitacs to engage them in the initiative.
“It is pretty obvious that academics are not as connected to the construction industry as they should be,” said Whitmore.
“The construction industry is not taking advantage of the research and innovation that is taking place at universities.”
Whitmore said Canadian Construction Innovations has developed a conceptual business model, but the details will be worked out by the board of the institute and its members as the process moves forward.
The new institute will be governed by a board of directors comprised of a maximum of 20 members with regional balance.
The main objectives of Canadian Construction Innovations are:
• To use innovation to make the Canadian construction industry more competitive at home and globally;
• To establish, monitor, and report on national goals for the industry that will help focus the drive for innovation;
• To define a broad research, development and innovation agenda to support the national goals;
• To build consensus for the agenda so the industry can speak with one voice in the area of innovation;
• To establish an effective system of selecting, pursuing and funding research projects and programs;
• To identify the means by which new products and services can best be commercialized; and,
• To facilitate the dissemination and adoption of new innovations, technologies and practices.
Whitmore said the institute will operate by establishing networks, which will be tasked to support innovation in areas identified by the board.
For example, sustainable development, infrastructure, productivity, procurement and export opportunity networks will be created.
The core research efforts will be pursued by professionals that will operate under the guidance of industry practitioners.
These efforts will be supplemented by experts drawn from universities, research establishments and consulting firms.
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