Find out more about the N+ Research Programme and how it contributes to the Transforming Construction Challenge.
The N+ research team have a mission to add to the body of knowledge that informs future construction practice and policy.
The N+ research explores business model and industry change, along with an industry focused digest series. The team also worked with the academic-led projects funded by the N+ to identify emergent themes that can enhance research investments and accelerate industry transformation.
Activating product platforms to improve collaboration and enhance capabilities
Published in Construction Management and Economics journal in October 2021, this paper by the N+ team shows how a specialist consultancy firm operating in the construction sector developed their own product platform on projects while iteratively developing and augmenting their delivery capabilities.
View this animation which summarises the N+ team’s research on product platforms and how they enable construction to be more closely aligned with the linear and sequential models found in manufacturing. Using product platforms enables firms to deliver projects with greater efficiency and certainty, without having to invest in new production facilities.
Published by the Association for Project Management in March 2022, a blog by members of the N+ team, ‘Platform-based delivery is transforming the role of project managers’, explains how the emergence of a new platform-based delivery environment transforms the role of project managers and calls for them to develop the capabilities and knowledge to help them thrive.
Supporting Construction’s Transformation Through Industry – University Collaboration
In March 2021, the N+ research team have published their fourth digest, 'The role of industry - university collaboration in the transformation of construction'.
The UK Government have signalled a clear ambition to grow research and innovation in the construction sector. One way of doing this is by improving the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and enhance collaboration between industry and academia. This digest explores how industry and universities can and do work together. It takes stock of current practices in the way that knowledge and ideas are shared, before providing suggestions on how to enhance this exchange further.
Constructive conversations: How industry and universities can work together, better
On 23 June 2021, this event brought together experts from within academic research, major projects, and policymaking to share their ideas about the role of collaboration towards innovation and transformation of the construction industry.
This event was co-chaired by Professor Jacqueline Glass (Vice Dean Research at The Bartlett, UCL), and Dr Diana Montgomery (Chair at ISCF Transforming Construction Challenge Board).
The conversation was joined by Karen Elson (Major Projects Consultant, Co.Cre8 Limited), Andy Mitchell CBE (CEO, Thames Tideway Tunnel), and Dr Jennifer Schooling OBE (Director, Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, University of Cambridge).
Learning from manufacturing to improve our sector's productivity
In November 2020, the N+ research team published their third digest, 'Supply Chain Productivity in Construction'.
Unlike manufacturing, construction is a ‘low volume – high variety’ industry. The fluid and emergent designs that we see in construction typically call for supply chain flexibility, while manufacturing emphasises supply chain efficiency. Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which construction firms and projects can make use of some of the tools from manufacturing to enhance productivity and profitability. This digest shows how productivity improvements based on supply chain management used in manufacturing can be applied to improve the performance of construction. It presents three considerations for improving productivity in construction. Drawing from this, the digest also aims to help firms understand when to focus on supply chain flexibility and when to seek economies of repetition.
Constructive conversations: Start with the end-to-end to mind
Taking place on 09 December 2020, the event brought together academics and industry experts to exchange ideas about the improvement of construction supply chains. The conversation was joined by Nigel Blundell, Partner at Pinsent Masons, Shaun McCarthy OBE, Director of Action Sustainability and chair of the Supply Chain Sustainability School and Elaine Mitchel-Hill, Business and Human Rights Lead at Marshalls Group and was moderated by Professor Jan Godsell, Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy at WMG, University of Warwick and co-investigator of the N+.
Exploring platforms in construction
In March 2020, the N+ research team published their second digest, 'Platform Thinking for Construction'.
This digest aims to clarify the ongoing conversation around platform thinking in construction, and organise how we consider the benefits of adopting a platform strategy. It begins by exploring the main categories of ‘platforms’ that are adopted by businesses. It describes how platforms are categorised in management research, synthesising insights from several key authors and considering how each concept is, and can be, applied to construction.
Constructive conversations: Platforms, platform thinking and the future of building
Designed to enhance the dialogue between academics, industry and policy-makers, the N+ Research Programme has developed a series of online event: Constructive Conversations.
Taking place on 25 June 2020, the event brought together academics and industry experts to exchange ideas about platform thinking in construction. The conversation was joined by Dr Luigi Mosca, N+ Research Fellow ;Trudi Sully, Impact Director for Manufacturing at the Construction Innovation Hub and Toby Uppington, Senior Vice President at AECOM and was moderated by Dr Kell Jones, N+ Research Fellow.
Animation: Platform Thinking in Construction
This new animation summarises the main topics of the digest, with useful visual aids to help break down the key elements of the topic. Watch it alongside the digest, downloadable above, for a clear understanding of the research.
Researching emerging business models
In October 2019, the N+ research team published their first digest, ‘Changing Business Models: Implications for Construction’.
The UK Government’s Transforming Construction Agenda is encouraging firms in the industry to re-think how they create and deliver whole life value through the application of digital technologies, and new manufacturing techniques. Firms in the construction industry should be considering how their current business model can help them address the risks and opportunities arising from this transformation, and whether they need to change their business model to deliver on construction client expectations sustainably. In practice, we see quite a bit of confusion about what a business model actually is.
We have created this digest for businesses wanting to understand more about business models, and to provide a structure for exploring how their business models can be changed. To do so, the digest summarises influential ideas about business models from industry and academia. It begins by clarifying what business models are, goes on to describe a framework for thinking about analysing business models, and ends by exploring how organisations can change their business models.
The Research Programme is led by two N+ Co-Investigators, Professor Andrew Davies, and Professor Jennifer Whyte, in collaboration with Research Fellows Dr Kell Jones and Dr Luigi Mosca. Professor Jan Godsell, N+ Co-Investigator and Dr Sumeer Chakuu, Senior Project Engineer are also taking part of the Research Programme by looking at supply chains and its specificities in construction. Brief biographies of the research team can be found on our People page.