October 16, 2013
CCA pushes research and innovation
Canadian Construction Innovations (CCInnovations) has received more than $280,000 in pledges and support from the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) to move forward with its business plan to develop industry-driven research and innovation.
“The construction industry is seen as being an inefficient industry, we have to be looking for ways to evolve. The advancement of innovation is key for us,” said CCInnovations steering committee member John Bockstael at the recent CCA board of directors meeting in Moncton, N.B.
CCInnovations is a response to the federal government’s shift in its approach to research funding after a report released by a panel of experts chaired by Tom Jenkins called for a clear focus on the commercialization of Canadian research and innovation.
Several attendees at the CCA board meeting said now was the time to support CCInnovations and have the industry drive forward its own innovation.
“There’s been a lack of coordination of spreading innovation in our industry and this is what the mandate of CCI would be. While innovation can occur in small incremental ways across the country, it’s more about the systemic change that we need to work to. There are ideas in parts of the country that take years to spread throughout our system,” said Bockstael.
Steering committee chair Don Whitmore said CCInnovations can push to advance all segments of the industry.
“If we can simply get meetings where we have owners, designers, suppliers talking about what the issues are, what the problems are, what needs to be changed... Owners don’t really talk to designers, designers design without finding out what’s buildable. We all know it, we just need to come together to talk about it,” he said during CCA’s innovation and technology committee meeting.
Prior to the meeting, the steering committee had about $150,000 in pledges and had hoped to reach the $205,000 mark.
By the end of the innovation and technology committee meeting, CCInnovations had received $276,000 in pledges and as of press time, that amount had grown to $282,000.
The CCA board passed a motion to provide seed funding in the amount of $125,000 to support the startup of CCInnovations to establish itself as an institute for industry-driven research and innovation, contingent on the fledgling organization raising $205,000 in pledges.
Several people in the board meeting made the distinction that their support of the motion was contingent on the CCA only providing seed money and a leadership role and not funding the initiative.
At the CCA board of directors meeting, Kees Cusveller of Graham Group said that though the U.S. and several European countries fund more construction innovation than in Canada, he does not see significant results.
“I think we drive for cost efficiencies, schedule efficiencies, we drive innovation ourselves. I would argue we’re certainly at the top of the pile when it comes to construction,” he said during the board meeting.
Cusveller also pointed out that he was not sure if research from a university professor and grad students is the most effective way to push innovation as it can often lead to the need for more research and funding after a research paper is produced.
He noted that he could not think of a topic of research that he would want to fund.
Others pointed out that their own companies fund research to push innovation within their company.
Past CCA chair, John Schubert, said that the industry isn’t moving forward because in some cases the research that’s needed is more broad based than any individual project.
He also said that of CCA’s 20,000 members, many are small or medium sized and may not have the resources to push research and innovation.
“I agree there’s no guarantee of success that this money will turn the corner and create that magical thing,” he said in the board meeting.
“We all still have to work very hard... at least it’s a different approach because a lot of the previous ones aren’t working real well for the benefit of the industry.”
At the spring board meeting in Kelowna, the CCA board of directors had committed to provide $20,000 to CCInnovations to help develop a business plan.
Bockstael said the business plan came together very quickly.
It calls for $247,000 in funding in 2014, with a part time executive director, $348,000 in 2015 with more time put in from the executive director and adding staff and $498,000 in 2016 when it should be nearing full operation.
Whitmore noted that the steering committee would expect to start getting research funding around 2017.
The early support from industry stakeholders will not be used for projects or research.
The funds will go to the establishment of the organization.
The steering committee said hundreds of millions of dollars are available for Canadian research and the industry support is needed to establish CCInnovations to pursue its own program and project initiatives.
Schubert said the CCA funding would come through the budget’s surplus or reserves.
Bockstael concluded that all the comments will give the steering committee more to think about and will help guide CCInnovations on its way.
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