Soluis Group Secures £1 million Innovate UK grant for the construction industry

16 August 2017

A Soluis Group-led consortium has secured £1 million of funding from Innovate UK to develop an Augmented Worker System (AWE), pioneering the use of virtual and augmented reality for the construction industry.

The system will enable the intelligent design, construction, maintenance and whole-life value of buildings, supporting construction and infrastructure growth. AWE will also realise significant value from Building Information Modelling (BIM) and will target a 25 per cent reduction in cost, 25 per cent reduction in waste, and increased productivity of 30 per cent for projects.

Soluis Group will work with partner organisations that will add considerable skills, knowledge and connections in the industry. These include, Pinnacle Business Solutions, an information systems consultancy; Carbon Dynamic, an innovative world leading modular timber building construction company; two High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres – the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC).

Christopher Freeman, Augmented Reality Technical Fellow at AMRC said: “We are delighted to be working with Soluis in this program. The AMRC sees activities such as AWE central to the digitalisation of construction and infrastructure. The integration of cutting-edge technologies into a data rich platform such as AWE will help push UK productivity forwards by enabling better communication and more effective decision making.”

The consortium will be supported by key industry organisations that will comprise a steering group. These include AECOM, Doosan Babcock, Laing O’Rourke, Autodesk and Microsoft.

With the construction sector being a key sector to the UK economy and one with a considerable growth opportunity, the government has been investing through its Digital Built Britain (DBB) programme.

Through the implementation of DBB, the industry will be able to deliver faster builds to a higher quality with fewer defects and more sustainable buildings. The challenge for industry is meeting the DBB Building Information Modelling (BIM) level mandated by the UK Government. The Augmented Worker System will provide the construction industry with augmented and virtual reality to improve the construction process at every stage, meeting these standards.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Research and innovation are at the heart of the Government’s vision for a modern Industrial Strategy. The adoption of cutting-edge virtual and augmented reality technology in industries like construction will be vital in helping us identify new, smarter ways of working.

“This Government-backed initiative will help build the UK’s reputation and expertise in the pioneering use of this technology, while helping make construction projects of the future more efficient, cost effective and productive.”

Lead partner in the awarded consortium, Soluis Group, is a leading construction visualisation company that has pioneered the application of realities technology, including development of an augmented reality asset management tool, In-Site, that was piloted at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station with Laing O’Rourke.

Martin McDonnell, Chairman of Soluis Group said: “The proof of concept project with Crossrail showed how this technology could be applied and add incredible value to the industry. Our vision was to develop this concept much further and create a set of tools that would form the augmented worker of the future. For a business like us, we could only drive this innovation a certain amount and working with the consortium and receiving funding from Innovate UK will help us achieve this much faster and more effectively.”

The AWE system will be designed to drive greater certainty, safety, efficiency and sustainability through five key areas – co-design, digital job guidance, progress monitoring, safety guidance and asset management. This will allow jobs to be delivered on time, and within budget, whilst also giving a greater level of collaboration and communication between teams and partners on projects. Reducing the need for paper or mobile based handheld devices, gives workers a hands free, heads-up solution for a greater level of safety whilst providing real-time visualisation on-site. 

David Philp, BIM Director at AECOM said “Construction technology is reshaping how we deliver and maintain our built assets, it is increasingly helping us place digital information into the real world in the right context supporting and augmenting the decision-making process. Real time access to individualised data, analytics and instructions during the construction and operational stages will greatly improve productivity, quality and also help worker well-being.  Creating a framework and guidance around the augmented worker is critically important if we are to successfully unlock this value proposition.”

The funding was awarded by Innovate UK as part of Infrastructure Systems competition which aims to stimulate innovation that creates UK business growth in infrastructure systems.  

The project will launch on September 1st with a kick off meeting attended by the consortium companies.

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