Construtech – The Construction Industry is no Stranger to Innovation! By Ricardo Luz

The construction industry is responsible for 9% of the GDP of the EU, represents a market of €2 trillion, and employs 18 million people. According to European Commission data it is, however, one of the least digitized sectors, with productivity almost stagnant over the past 2 decades, growing by just 1% – a fraction of the improvement in other traditional industries.

Construction technologies are at the heart of many engineering feats in the modern world, and the industry has made great strides, among others, in safety, pollution control and environmental impact. But it can and must go much further. New technologies, at decreasing costs, in terms of artificial intelligence, computer vision, robotics, drones, etc., as well as constant innovation in terms of materials, can greatly increase the productivity and economic and environmental performance of the industry.

Many mature companies developed Intrapreneurship projects, contributing to the creation and development of a culture of internal innovation. It is important to emphasize that innovation is within the reach of any company, regardless of its size, whether internally or through the acquisition of start-ups, fundamental to the industry transformation process given its innovative, and often disruptive, character in processes, materials and technologies.

Technological innovators and entrepreneurs are increasingly aware of the construction industry as one of the “next big things”. Entrepreneurs and their investors are attracted by the size of the market and in particular by the impact of digital transformation in a sector that has been a “sleeping giant”.

“The biggest challenges in the construction industry are productivity, waste and costs. Productivity because it has barely improved over several decades, waste because the industry faces an urgent need to improve waste management, and costs because there is great potential for time savings in this sector”, says Alban Mallet, founder of XtreeE, which uses 3D printing to produce everything from walls to bridges.

“There is a lot of communication about sensors, the internet of things, data and all sorts of modern devices being implemented in the construction sector,” says Emeric Mourot, founder of My Digital Buildings, which creates construction site ‘digital twins’. But the construction industry remains a conservative world, a product of a fragmented market, with many different players involved in the life stages of a project, from architects to builders, developers and diverse suppliers, often leading to complicated coordination and mishaps. communication, cause of rework, delays and unforeseen costs. Improving productivity is key to companies’ resilience and competitiveness

Responsible for generating 39% of global carbon, the construction industry faces huge challenges on the path to sustainability. In 2020 alone, 374 million tons of demolition waste were created. To put it in perspective, the equivalent of 37,000 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower.

“The construction industry is like an old dinosaur that is finally ready to move,” says Lucile Hamon, the founder of startup Backacia, a reused component buying and selling platform.

Gonzalo Galindo, chief executive of Madrid CEMEX Ventures, Cemex’s Venture Capital, says the operational challenges are great, especially for builders with very low margins. And if there’s anyone who can help the construction industry get out of its comfort zone and try new things, it’s start-ups, because many entrepreneurs don’t want to face big corporations, but rather work side by side with them, because they believe that this is the key to winning in a sector where it is difficult to enter and even more difficult to climb.

If Europe wants to meet its climate targets, it will have to tackle the construction issue in a systematic way. This will only be possible with innovation, new technologies and digital solutions.  And this will only be possible if everyone, Venture Capital, entrepreneurs and construction entrepreneurs, realize that there is a whole world of opportunities for those who combine industry knowledge with the technological innovation of startups, all supported by a venture capital industry available for finance innovative projects, sometimes risky but with great potential for profitability.

EBAN as the pan-European representative for the early stage investor community gathering over 150 member organizations in more than 50 countries today can be a major partner for all those entities, helping them to achieve their goals in the “construtech field” and playing a vital role in Europe’s future, notably in the funding of SMEs.

Adapted from an article written by the author at LinktoLeaders. “Construction tech, a Sifted Intelligence report”, main source.

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