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The digital transformation of the construction sector should be a top priority for the EU

In a manifesto addressed to EU policy-makers, RICS and other industry bodies including developers, contractors, product manufacturers and professionals pledged to collaborate intensively to lead the successful digital transformation of the EU construction industry as part of shaping a sustainable future for the European Union and its citizens.

The industry considers that such a transformation should be part of the EU’s ‘Digitising European Industry’ initiative. Launched in April 2016, it aims to ensure that every business in Europe – regardless of sector, location and size – can draw the full benefits from digital innovations. To this end, European institutions should respond with an agile governance culture which facilitates and supports R&D ecosystems for IT, academia, architects, consulting engineers and the construction industry to develop market-driven R&D programmes.

“The importance of the construction industry is reflected not only in its size – it represents 8.9 percent of the EU’s GDP and approximately 6.4 percent of total employment in the region (29.3 percent of industrial employment in the EU) – but also in its ability to respond to the main challenges facing the EU: the digital economy, energy efficiency, the circular economy, climate change, demographic changes, health and safety, education and new personal data protection rules.

In essence, the construction industry occupies a pivotal position at the crossroads of different sectors which make up the construction value chain: product and machinery manufacturing, professional services, infrastructure, real estate and housing. Its digital transformation cannot be realised by businesses in isolation. Europe’s construction industry requires well-aligned political, regulatory and financial support from the European Union, if it is to harness the full potential of new digital technologies,” said Zsolt Toth is RICS External Affairs and EU Policy Manager

Signatories of the manifesto also believe that the new EU budget – the so-called post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – should focus on digital skills, R&D and deployment of IT infrastructure. Financial access and support are crucial to speeding up the transformation process and mitigating the impact of initial low return on investments.

Digitalisation is also bringing disruption to the field of data policy, creating a need for changes to traditional data management. For this reason, in the manifesto, partners call for a regulatory framework that ensures better data quality and data management, addresses challenges around intellectual property rights and cybersecurity, establishes who is responsible – and liable – for data ownership, and avoids abuse by monopolies in allocating data relating to the built environment. Standards such as those for data, interoperability and BIM (Building Information Modelling) can support the adoption of new technologies but need to be accessible, neutral, and not-for-profit.

RICS strongly recommends the use of International standards and has been working collaboratively on a thought leadership in a number of areas on this issue. The organisation is also working on a standard around cyber security and data handling and is keen to work with partners to bring solutions to these issues to ensure BIM and digital construction is implemented throughout the industry.

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