Topcon Positioning GB’s research with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)

Earlier this year, we launched new research investigating the challenges of adopting new ways of working and technology in the UK infrastructure industry. Our whitepaper, ‘Breaking Barriers in Infrastructure’, in partnership with ICE, revealed a number of insights that have sparked debate among industry professionals.

The whitepaper’s key findings included insights and commentary from a cross-section of industry professionals as well as results from over 200 surveyed ICE members.


  • 33% of junior staff believe their business is resistant to change compared with only 9% of senior leadership
  • Cost and company culture identified as the greatest barriers to adopting new technology and working practices, with 27% and 22% of respondents suggesting these respectively
  • A fifth of all infrastructure professionals believe their business is resistant to change
  • 56% of junior staff find the industry reluctant to work collaboratively compared with only 37% of senior leadership
  • 92% believe introducing new technology and materials is key to the success of their business, but:
  • 84% disagree that making changes in working practices is straightforward

After the Office for National Statistics released figures in Autumn 2018 revealing that “the construction sector remains the least productive industry in the UK economy”, we wanted to understand the barriers that are stopping the progression to greater productivity.

The report demonstrates the need to bring about change in the way we learn and develop as a profession. It’s something I’m really passionate about instilling within our business at Topcon, ensuring as a technology provider we’re supporting the industry with the skills needed to understand and adopt new technology and the required associated ways of working – from finding the next generation of civil engineers to engaging with the most senior levels of the industry.

The whitepaper includes contributions from a cross-section of industry professionals, from graduates to senior engineers. These contributions provide an insight into operations at some of the industry’s leading businesses, such as Balfour Beatty, Thames Tideway and the Skanska, MWH Treatment and Balfour Beatty (SMB) Joint Venture, discussing best practice to drive the industry to being more productive and efficient by adopting new technology and working practices.

From our findings, it’s clear there’s an appetite for change in the industry, but there is a challenge in creating the right culture and learning opportunities to enable a move toward digital construction, greater collaboration and increased productivity.

The findings gave a snapshot into the state of the industry, and it would seem that our two biggest barriers – cost and culture – go hand in hand. We must shift from the short-term thinking of project-by-project profit and consider the wider benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency that these investments will bring in the long term.

Following the launch of the whitepaper, we worked with the ICE to focus our sixth annual joint lecture on the findings of the research.

Experts from across the industry were invited to speak at the event, including: Andy Evans, Product Manager for Mass Data Capture at Topcon Positioning Europe; Alison Watson MBE, Founder and CEO at COYO; Chris Freeman, Vice President for Industry at Sublime Digital; Simon Navin, Head of Innovation Programmes at Ordnance Survey; and Dr Jennifer Schooling, Director of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction.

Each speaker shared their thoughts on the findings of the research, and presented lessons and best practices examples of adopting new ways of working within their own businesses, sparking debate and getting the industry thinking about what our next steps need to be.  

The guests summarised that technology alone is not the sole answer to problems faced by the industry, with Andy Evans commenting: “The future is bright, but it relies on innovation to enable technology to make a difference, a positive attitude to make things work, and a commitment to encouraging and nurturing current and new members of our industry.”

We hope this research continues to encourage debate and inspire innovations in working processes and technology uptake to improve productivity across the sector.

- Dave Bennett, MD of Topcon Positioning GB

To read the whitepaper in full, visit: www.topconpositioning.com/gb/tpgb-whitepaper-download

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