National collaboration delivering for industry

The Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre (SBEnrc), successor to the CRC for Construction Innovation, is providing continuity of support for the Australian built environment industry with our extensive national and international networks. The investment that the Australian Government, along with state governments, universities and industry, has made via the CRC program is paying rewarding dividends as we continue to collaborate to achieve valuable research outcomes for Australia.

The ongoing participation of our lead industry and government partners – Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales Governments; Parsons Brinckerhoff; John Holland; Queensland University of Technology (QUT); Curtin University; and Swinburne University of Technology – is invaluable in helping us achieve results in our industry-driven projects. These core members are complemented at the project level by a further 20 partners investing cash and in-kind support and strengthening our applied research focus.

Dr Keith Hampson CEO, SBEnrc and John V. McCarthy AO Chair, SBEnrc

Dr Keith Hampson CEO, SBEnrc and John V. McCarthy AO Chair, SBEnrc

The participation of organisations such as VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and BRANZ in New Zealand also provides important international partnerships. Added to this, our Governing Board Chair, John V. McCarthy AO, is the current President of the CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction) providing us with access to a global network of over 5,000 experts from about 500 member organisations across 80 countries.

Our Centre is well positioned for future growth, and we welcome collaborations with other research organisations which are committed to adding value to Australian industry. We have recently held a series of industry research workshops to develop projects for the next round of research. We expect to announce the outcomes of these in early 2012. Meanwhile, I look forward to working with core members, project partners and other industry stakeholders to grow the value of SBEnrc research into the future.

Project news

This month, we are looking at progress from Project 2.7 Leveraging R&D for the Australian Built Environment, led by Professor Keith Hampson, CEO of SBEnrc. This key national project has been endorsed by the Australian Built Environment Industry Innovation Council (BEIIC) with Council member Professor Catherin Bull serving on the project’s Steering Committee.

The overarching goal of this project is to maximise the benefits of R&D to Australia’s infrastructure and building industry by better matching funding strategies to industry needs. The research aims to build new understandings and knowledge relevant to R&D funding strategies, research team formation and management, dissemination of outcomes and industry uptake.

The research outcomes will support public and private organisations enhance uptake of R&D outcomes for business impact. This is being achieved through the active involvement of public sector infrastructure and building agencies, along with private-sector industry leaders in innovation.
In a report commissioned for this project, Dr Thomas Barlow (2011) brings together data from Australian government sources, the private sector and the OECD to analyse R&D investment trends in construction. The construction sector includes building construction, civil and housing engineering construction and construction services (as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics). Interestingly, there has been a huge increase in private sector investment between 1992 and 2008.

Business has supplanted the public sector as the lead investor in industry R&D. In the early 1990s, Australian public institutions were spending 3 times more on construction‐related R&D than Australian businesses. Yet by 2008, Australian businesses were spending 8 times as much on construction-related R&D as public research institutions. Figure 1 below illustrates this dramatic trend.


Disturbingly, it is also the case that the Australian government has reduced its emphasis on construction R&D as a proportion of its total spending. Between 1992 and 2008, government agency spending on construction R&D fell from 2.2% to 0.5% of total government sector R&D expenditure. This decline is evident in Figure 2 above.

Also of significance is that a greater percentage of ‘construction’ research is now being undertaken from within the sector itself.
In the next two stages of this project, we will be examining firstly the role of specific investments in R&D – in construction safety, green buildings, and CADD and integrated project delivery – to assess the impact of R&D to industry practice. Additionally, we will be investigating the circumstances surrounding the post-2001 growth in construction R&D, in particular the role of the CRC for Construction Innovation (2001 – 2009) and R&D tax concession arrangements. Understanding the significant increase in construction R&D in Australian industry from 2001 could provide very useful insights for policy makers interested in stimulating R&D investment in other areas of industry.
Secondly, we will be carrying out the industry roadmapping phase of the project in partnership with our experienced partners VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Swinburne University of Technology. Through a process of national industry consultation, this phase will develop an R&D roadmap for our industry – to optimise investment in research and respond to future drivers of change.
We look forward to sharing the results of this and other projects with you as we deliver our project outcomes into early 2012.

Upcoming Events

In keeping with our national and international collaboration, I am pleased to invite you to the following upcoming events:

1. Low energy high rise update – The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, University of Sydney, in partnership with SBEnrc, invite you to attend an update on optimising the sustainability of your property. Speakers include Professor Peter Newman, Curtin University, speaking on SBEnrc research in Program 1 Greening the Built Environment; and Alexandra McKenna presenting on the Warren Centre’s Low Energy High Rise Project.

The event will be held at the Marriott Brisbane on Wednesday 28 September 2011 from 5pm, and will be followed by drinks and networking. For information and to register go to SBEnrc Upcoming Events or REGISTER HERE.

2. Agile and Lean for Engineering and Construction Projects seminar – The Agile Academy and SBEnrc are jointly hosting a presentation by our project partner Ennova on Agile and Lean for Engineering and Construction Projects. The presenters, Adrian Smith and Hugh Hofmeister from Ennova, will provide a brief overview of their product Envision, a web- and mobile-based application that supports the application of agile and lean values and principles on engineering and construction projects.
The seminar will be held from 5.30pm, Wednesday 21 September 2011 at The Gibson Room, Level 12, Z Block, QUT, Gardens Point Campus, Brisbane. For more information and to book, go to

3. The CIB World Building Congress 2013 will be held in Brisbane from 5-9 May 2013. SBEnrc and QUT are coordinating the conference on behalf of the CIB. This is the premier global event held each three years profiling leading achievements in building and construction research. Sign up for conference updates, for information on attending or on submitting a paper at the Congress website

Best regards

Keith Hampson