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Leeds Beckett University collaboration to drive innovation in construction industry

Construction innovation experts at Leeds Beckett University have partnered with Yorkshire’s largest public sector procurement framework organisation to drive innovation in the construction sector and boost opportunities for small businesses in the region.

Leeds Beckett University will work with YORhub to create a Supply Chain Engagement Toolkit. This aims to increase the number and diversity of regional small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to public sector procurement frameworks – reducing the over-dominance of large firms, and introducing innovative solutions in a sector that is slow to change. It is a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), part-funded by the Government through Innovate UK.

Professor Mohammed Dulaimi, Project Leader and Head of Engineering in the School of Built Environment, Engineering and Computing at Leeds Beckett, said: “This KTP builds on a strong relationship between Leeds Beckett and YORhub, which has seen us collaborate on projects and research over several years.

“Ensuring competitiveness and diversity in the supply chain is a national challenge in public sector procurement. Framework managers are hindered by legislation that stifles innovation and plays to the strengths of large consulting firms and construction companies – leaving SMEs with lower-value contracts.

“This hinders innovation as SMEs with better on-the-ground insight are unable to positively engage directly with clients or YORhub to suggest improvements. Through this KTP, YORhub will disrupt this status quo by developing a Supply Chain Engagement Toolkit which addresses the challenges of engaging with SMEs and has the potential to achieve large-scale, industry-wide, impact.”

Steve Baker, Head of Construction Services and YORhub at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “The construction sector is an industry in need of innovation. This KTP will bring academic know-how and innovation to the challenges that are being experienced nationally – which are particularly acute in the public sector. YORhub’s size, reputation and profile in the industry means we are uniquely placed to lead and champion this innovation for the public and construction sectors, and to share good practice with our peers and supply chains.”

The work will be managed by a KTP Associate – a skilled graduate who will be recruited as a full-time member of YORhub, with the full support of the Leeds Beckett academic team.

The project will include a substantial change management process which will disrupt long-established ways of working, and provide ongoing staff training to ensure the Supply Chain Management Toolkit is successfully embedded into YORhub for the long-term. As well as boosting the growth of SMEs, the partnership aims to benefit the local economy and the environment, by focusing on regional contractors which, in turn, reduces carbon emissions.

Jo Griffiths, Head of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships at Leeds Beckett, added: “This is our first KTP with a public sector organisation, building on our strong relationship with YORhub, which has included co-funded PhD projects with Professor Dulaimi’s students. We look forward to continued opportunities and collaborations through this KTP – including student projects, guest lectures from YORhub and our KTP Associate for our students, PhD opportunities and research publications.”

Professor Mohammed Dulaimi is leader of the Accelerating Innovation in Construction research group at Leeds Beckett, and coordinator of the CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction) Task Group on Accelerating Innovation in Construction.

The Leeds Beckett University academic team also includes: Sam Zulu, Professor of Construction and Project Management, Dr Neema Kavishe, Lecturer in Building Construction and Project Management, and Tony Jenkins, Senior Lecturer in Software Engineering and Digital Transformation.

YORhub is a collaboration of Leeds City Council, Sheffield City Council, North Yorkshire Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, supporting the delivery of quality construction procurement frameworks to the public sector. It is the biggest framework in Yorkshire and the Humber, with the largest number of projects of any construction procurement framework. Across Yorkshire and Humber, approximately £2.5bn is spent annually on capital construction, with £460m procured through YORhub frameworks.