Despite the warnings that the construction industry is failing to invest in innovation and skills in Mark Farmer’s review, there are signs that R&D activity is gathering momentum, notably in the area of prefabricated or modular construction.

David McWilliams

David McWilliams

Reports that the government is planning a new wave of prefabs or modular homes in a bid to solve the housing crisis will spur on innovation activity.

However, without further fiscal incentives, we are unlikely to see the step change in innovation activity that the industry so desperately needs.

One of the most dynamic areas of R&D activity is prefab or modular construction.

Activity in this area has already led to the introduction of new prefabricated flooring, roofing and support structures, some of which have been used to build tower blocks and bridges.

This activity suggests that innovation practices are working well, in some niche areas at least.

To meet the challenges that lie ahead, the construction sector must replicate best practice and make better use of incentives.

Despite a disappointingly low take-up in the sector, the patent box offers UK-based businesses tax relief on any profits from patented technologies and is regarded as one of the most generous schemes of its type in Europe.

To meet the challenges ahead, the construction sector must make better use of incentives

Many businesses in the sector are ready and willing to adopt a more proactive approach to investment in innovation and skills.

In order to do so, however, they need the right support net in terms of fiscal incentives.

And the more that can be done to reduce the burden of administration and regulation the better.

David McWilliams is a partner at intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers