McCaffer, R. (2010), "Editorial", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 17 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/ecam.2010.28617aaa.001Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Volume 17, Issue 1
In September 2009, a conference entitled “Global Innovation in Construction” was held in the Department of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University.
Referees identified papers that might be worthy of recognition and this long short list of papers was ranked by the Conference's International Committee. This edition of Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management (ECAM) Vol. 17 No. 1 presents the best eight papers selected from the conference.
A sea change has been underway in academic research for some time now. Not all universities or departments or individual researchers have recognised it. Historically academic research has concentrated on “knowledge acquisition” and “knowledge contribution”. The sea change is the expectation that it is the researchers who are now the drivers of “knowledge exploitation”. The exploitation of new knowledge from research is our umbrella definition of innovation (Figure 1).
This sea change has come about by pressure from the funding bodies, and in most countries – for universities at least – that means governments. In the UK, Lord Drayson, the Minister of Innovation, speaks of the large/significant increase in the “science” budget for universities since 1997 and, as the Innovation Minister, he is looking for a return on this investment. The return to be measured is impact, which is defined as the impact on the economy, not “number of citations” as academics like to measure.
The UK Research Assessment Exercise 2008 included a “ commentary box” in which to record the “value” of the research paper offered for assessment. This box arose because of pressures from funders, i.e. government, to recognise those whose research had “value” in their terms to the economy.
In the current development of the forthcoming research evaluation framework for the UK, there is discussion on allowing a longer time frame of assessment to demonstrate the impact, i.e. application, of research.
The UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council have just (October 2009) launched their IMPACT campaign to demonstrate the impact of the research they fund on society, the economy, quality of life and culture.
Taken together, it can be seen as a relentless march towards valuing academic research by its practical impact. Historically, too often research has stopped short of practical impact (Figure 2).
The other pressures for this change are coming from industry itself. Ten or 15 years ago the words “Knowledge Management” meant little to our industry colleagues. When asked what was their company's most important asset the reply, after consideration, would be “knowledge”. When asked did the companies have a director of knowledge or a management structure managing this most important asset the answer was usually a confused “no”. The companies would have finance, production, design and commercial directors but no knowledge directors. In the intervening years, companies have come to learn how to manage knowledge. The extent of this can be debated. However, they are more comfortable at managing “explicit” knowledge, i.e. hard facts rather than their “implicit” knowledge, i.e. their knowledge how to do things. Having accepted the importance of knowledge and the need to manage it, the point they are at now is developing the structures to generate “new” knowledge. Without “new” knowledge, companies do not develop and advance. The source of this “new” knowledge is research. It is interesting that in parallel there has been a step change in companies approach to training with many large companies establishing “academies”, this is their answer to managing their implicit knowledge.
Governments' searching for practical outputs from the research and companies searching for “new” knowledge is now enshrined in the word “innovation”.
Governments seek innovation. Companies seek innovation. Academic research should produce innovation. The opportunity for academic researchers have never been better. This is the richest, best funded era for academic research in the practical subjects that has ever existed in history.
So it seemed, timely for the conference, entitled “Global Innovation in Construction”.
The themes were organised as follows (Figure 3).
This demonstrates how these themes interrelate and how collectively they should stimulate the level of innovation activity.
Many people were due thanks for the conference organisation. But the reason we were able to hold such a conference was because of the considerable effort of the global research community made up of many researchers conducting their research addressing the issues of today and being enthusiastic about presenting their papers.
So the biggest, thanks goes to all the researchers who participated.
The first paper included in this edition is the paper awarded the “Emerald Best Paper Prize” by Martin Morgan Tuuli and Steve Rowlinson for their paper entitled “What empowers individuals and teams in project settings? A critical incident analysis”.
Using the critical incident technique a total of 122 critical incidents based on the experiences of 30 construction professionals were studied. This interesting and stimulating paper identifies the key factors operating at individual level, team level and project level. The study provides targets for interventions by leaders and organisations fostering empowerment in project teams.
As an advocate of a wider range of richer research methodologies, this paper is a delight as it establishes the value of this interesting research methodology, CIT.
Other papers in this best eight list are.
Iain A. MacLeod who seriously questioned the established and traditional approach to engineering education of “engineering science” first downgrading the “practice” of engineering to sometime later. In his presentation, he amusingly described it as teaching the theory of music to an aspirant piano player and not letting them near a piano until they understood the theory. This paper provides a challenge to universities and professional engineering institutions, which should be addressed. The object of the paper is to produce innovative engineers not engineering scientists. We need more engineers capable of applying their engineering knowledge rather than just understanding the engineering science. Indeed, the arguments that MacLeod is advancing seem to be accepted by the large companies that are forming academies to train their staff on how they apply there knowledge.
Dave C.A. Butcher and Michael J. Sheehan addressed the measurement of contractor performance in the UK. They dismiss compliance with KPIs as measuring excellence and describe the KPIs as the minimum. The authors wish to develop an understanding of the customers' perspectives and did so by interviewing some of the UK's largest customers. Reaching a behavioural understanding with the customer has led to a shift in the interaction between customers and contractors. Following the advice of this paper will lead to innovative relationships between customers and contractors.
J.C. Martin, K. Akande, and R.A. Falconer described how Halcrows and Cardiff had formed an innovative partnership providing the framework for creating ideas – developing the ideas – and finally applying the ideas for the benefit of industry and society. All this was based in water engineering and examples were presented of the projects tackled in this venture. The paper also describes the group's ability to look at longer term issues such as climate change.
Letzai Ruiz, Eva Gómez, Alfonso García Santos and Sergio Vega presented their innovative work in multilayered façade systems. These new systems offer favourable characteristics for energy consumption. The paper demonstrates great advancement over traditional systems.
Wei Pan tackled the issue of how to manage innovation in UK house building. Citing the achievement of innovation in house building, the paper sets out to provide the insights into success, inertia and failure. Based on a two-year case study, the paper identifies the five key stages of managing innovations.
Heli Koukkari describes the transformation of a research centre into an innovation partner with the construction industry. This has led to a process model of a multidisciplinary commercialised research-based consultancy as a new way of operating a research centre.
Nick Blismas, Ron Wakefield and Brian Hauser describe the development of a technology roadmap for concrete prefabricated housing via advances in system technologies. The system-based approach to prefabrication was seen as innovative and the industry needed to understand how to adopt co-operative innovations in prefabrication to be competitive. The options arising from the road mapping is the key to continued innovation.
These eight papers took 17 authors from Australia, Finland, Hong Kong, Spain and the UK. Two papers were co-authored with industrial partners, one with a trade association.
The contributors enjoyed the conference and plans are being made to update progress in innovation in Calgary 2011.
As ECAM Vol. 17 No. 1 is the first edition of 2010 may I wish all our authors, readers and especially our referees a happy and productive new year.