Strategic Management - (Construction)Construction Industry in Europe – An Introduction Contributing around 11% of European Union’s GDP, the construction industry is the continent’s biggest employer and a global leader in export markets. But what slacks the industry according to even its closest well wishers is innovation and the fact that it is not environment friendly. From the emerging trends it is absolutely clear that the industry has to uplift its innovative capacity and be more environment friendly augmenting it further going forward. Today the way buildings are built have undergone a massive transformation due to changes in building design, architectural fashions, the pressure of environment on the use of the right raw materials and over and above all, our own lifestyle and the way we work today.
The desire for modernization and preservation has thrust a high demand on the construction industry. The necessity of protecting the environment is a central issue today. The quick paced advancements in ergonomics and social psychology have led us to being more aware and knowledgeable about the effect of how we build on how we relate to each other.
This in turn would likely be construed or rather misconstrued as a natural driver for a right approach to innovation but in fact it is not happening that way. According to Scott Steedman, the President of European Construction Council for Research, Development and Innovation (ECCREDI), “a culture of innovation has been totally lacking in Europe for many decades”. Mr Steedman describes the level of investment by Europe in R& D is ridiculously low and the general interest in R& D and the resulting translation of its successful findings to innovative capabilities is limited to very few companies and institutions.
Though marred by blames the industry does have its fair share of excuses for the way it has shaped up over the period. The business itself is a low-profit one and the products have a long period of life. The average life of a building is 50 years with the annual building replacement rate of 2%. So naturally with such kind of timeframes the prospective client is on the lookout for the most conservative option available. Moreover the highly fragmented nature of the industry (92% of them employing less than 10 people) precludes any major investment in R& D or the sharing of information and knowledge.
It was under these pressing circumstances that the ECCRDI was evolved by a group of architects, designers, researchers and entrepreneurs to overcome the problem faced by the industry. It acts as a hub for around 14 associations networked amongst themselves to address all levels of the industry such as material manufacturers, architects and civil engineers. Within two years of its existence the ECCRDI was asked by the European commission to organize a targeted research action, TRA, on technologies adapted by construction companies to preserve the environment.
Today the TRA comprises of 600 specialists drawn from companies, university laboratories and research centers working on a wide range of EC funded research projects all oriented towards work on environmental preservation. With more than 75 projects accomplished in the first year, about 120 of them are being carried out today. The aim of the TRAs conducted by ECCRDI are: (a) provide an European forum where people can share their knowledge and experience and develop new ideas and research, (b) share and exploit results of research much more quickly, (c) improve the overall coordination of research being conducted by European commission programmes and (d) inform R& D programme planner on the research needs and impending priorities of the future.
All such meetings are worskshop-based and emphasis is on realizing practical results. Plans are afoot to extend the scheme in vogue to a Strategic Thematic Network after the expiry of the current contract. Plans are also afoot to gradually move the scheme to central and Eastern Europe.
The entire project comprises of twelve thematic groups or clusters which range from research into the technology, performance and durability of construction materials such as concrete, wood and steel to manage the different life-stages of buildings and recycling in construction.