The UK government has launched a strategy which it hopes will make British construction a stronger force in a global construction market it said was destined to see 70% growth by the year 2025.

Speaking at the Government Construction Summit today, Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon unveiled the industrial strategy for construction – Construction 2025 – which he said set out how the government and industry would ensure the UK continued to thrive in the face of increasing global competition.

The strategy includes an action plan of 10 joint commitments which the government hopes will ensure industry is best placed to achieve its ambitions by 2025. These include reducing growth barriers for businesses, particularly small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) and sole traders.

Within the plan, the government and industry are committing to improving access to trade credit and increasing fair payment practices. There is pledge to secure an increase in the number of suppliers offering greater trade credit to small businesses, and a fair payment charter for construction will be developed.

The strategy also looks at building UK manufacturers’ competitive advantage using BIM (building information modelling), increasing export opportunities for UK construction product manufacturers, promoting increased use of innovative products, and improving the image of the industry.

Last week, the UK government announced that over £100 billion (€116.5 billion) of public investment was to be committed to infrastructure projects up to 2020, including the building or repair of 200,000 affordable homes, and also including the HS2 high-speed rail project.

Mr Fallon said, “Construction accounts for nearly 7% of the UK economy, over 280,000 businesses, and employs around 3 million people. It is a sector where Britain has a strong competitive edge, the capabilities for rapid new development and a potential for unlocking great wealth for our economy.

“With the global construction market forecast to grow by 70% by 2025, Britain is now in a global race for growth and jobs, and we can’t afford to be left behind.”

Real outcomes

Dr Neil Bentley, deputy director general of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), said, “While we welcome the government’s vision of construction as a driver of growth, and this strategy’s ambition to support UK construction firms as global leaders, the test now is whether words will result in real outcomes.

“This strategy recognises that we need to work hard to keep our competitive edge in green construction and digital innovation, and to increase overseas trade. Our research shows construction services alone have the potential to treble exports by 2025.”

He added that this marked the start of a welcome partnership between the government and the construction industry.

“The challenge now is to work together to achieve this vision,” he said.

The UK’s Construction Products Association said that the strategy would particularly focus on driving growth, “not only for manufacturers and suppliers, but throughout the entire industry, while promoting sustainability, innovation and advanced technologies such as BIM”.

Government chief construction adviser Peter Hansford said, Construction 2025 provides us with the strategic focus to transform British construction into a real force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

“Businesses can provide the expertise to get us there, but the challenge now is to ensure these strengths align with the future needs of a greener, digitally advanced industry.”

Leadership Council

To help deliver the strategy, a new Construction Leadership Council has been created. Jointly chaired by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Sir David Higgins, chief executive of Network Rail, the group will oversee the delivery of the action plan and its strategic priorities.

Sir David said, “This strategy's publication is just the first step in putting UK construction at the forefront of the global market ­– strong leadership will be vital in driving lasting change. The Construction Leadership Council will provide a forum for industry and government to work together in pursuit of our ambitions.”

Jeremy Blackburn, director of UK external affairs at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said, “RICS supports the necessary focus which the government is putting on the construction sector’s long-term health.

“In particular, we welcome seizing the initiative on the export role of UK construction. A start has already been made with links to Brazil, but it can go much, much further.

“To support construction’s role in commercial diplomacy we do need to work together on a secure supply chain, up to 2020.”

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