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Supporting digitalisation of the construction sector and SMEs, including Building Information Modelling

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Digitalisation of the economy is one of the priorities set by the European Union (EU). The Strategy for a Digital Single Market, developed by the European Commission (EC) in 2015, outlined the path for the EU to build the right digital environment. The aim is to maximise the growth potential of the digital economy in Europe and to ensure European industries are at the forefront of developing and exploiting digital technologies of the markets of the future.

 

The digitalisation of the construction sector goes beyond the sole use of BIM (Building Information Modelling) to include automated fabrication (pre-fabrication) using robots and 3D printing, drones, 3D scanning, sensors and Internet of things (IoT). Each of these technologies are slowly penetrating the construction sector in Europe, but so far, the focus on the digitalisation of the construction sector has been on BIM. BIM is, in fact, the only digitalisation technology mentioned in the EU procurement directive.

 

With up to 98% of its construction chain composed of SMEs and micro-enterprises characterised by decreasing innovation activity, low rates of technological adoption and decreasing efficiency, digitalisation of SMEs in the construction sector is strategic for the EU.

 

This report presents an overview and brief descriptions of the recommended actions to improve the current state of digitalisation of the construction sector. In total, 10 actions with several sub-actions are proposed through this study. Three of these are suggested to be prioritized by the European Commission and executed within three years in cooperation with stakeholders from the construction industry, such as larger companies and SMEs, umbrella organisations, and Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs).

 

This report concludes that a digital transformation of the construction sector requires:

 

  • Effective cooperation between the partners from:1) the industry, 2) knowledge and research institutes, and 3) the government.
  • Synergies between regional and national initiatives from various EU Member States, allowing regions to build on their strengths and focus on their niches to become complementary to other regions.

This study was commissioned by the Executive Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises (EASME) to assist the European Commission in developing a blueprint for EU actions to support the acceleration of digitalisation (BIM and other technologies) of the construction sector SMEs.