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Spark of change: tackling regional inequalities with offsite manufacturing

Learn about research being conducted to ensure industry innovations are beneficial to everyone, nationwide.

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Introduction

Transforming the UK construction industry to be more sustainable is something that must benefit everyone. Sustainability focuses on meeting our economic, environmental and societal needs, both in the present day and for future generations.

The Construction Innovation Hub (the Hub) recognises the need to ensure those needs are met fairly and consistently and that everyone has the same opportunity to benefit from progress within the built environment.

Read on to find out how the Hub is helping to ensure offsite manufacturing (OSM) will be universally beneficial.

The project

It has been suggested that the introduction and adoption of Off-Site Manufacturing (OSM) will have a hugely positive impact on the UK economy and built environment and, consequently, those who interact with it.

However, it’s vital we ensure the process of OSM itself is as beneficial to as many people right across the country as possible.

The benefits that OSM can deliver to an area include access to skills and training, opportunities for commercial growth and opportunities to use the products and materials in construction projects across the UK.

Enabled by the Construction Innovation Hub, a team of researchers from the Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research is conducting a research study to discover the barriers and opportunities for ensuring an increased use of OSM helps to tackle socio-economic inequalities across all regions of the UK. The aim of the study is to explore whether the current geographies of OSM sites could potentially benefit some regions while disadvantaging others in terms of economic opportunities, and to consider what might be done (both in policy and industry) to move towards a more equitable distribution of these potential benefits.

There are clusters forming already. For example, in Hull there are several OSM sites in operation as the area has extensive experience in the manufacture of caravans and have found the skills and experience transferable to OSM. This is providing new opportunities of economic growth for the local area.

In the context of the Government’s levelling up agenda, which aims to reduce regional inequalities in the UK, up to date understandings of the geographies of a key industry such as construction are of clear importance.

This research seeks to place these questions around the geographies of inequality at the centre of considerations of OSM to unlock the opportunity to boost local employment and economies, rather than disadvantage them, through the expansion of, and training in, OSM. By exploring the emerging geographies of this industry shift we can analyse not just the benefits, but the potential unintended outcomes of OSM in locations across the UK and work with Government and other partners to implement a fair and equitable distribution of this evolution in construction.

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