Technology innovation can sprout up from many places. It can come from the minds of engineers. It can develop in labs in higher institutions. And it can become something more right from inside the four walls of a construction company. The challenge becomes fostering that innovation and helping it become something bigger, especially when small tech startups struggle to get up off the ground.
Still, even with the challenges it faces, the construction industry is experiencing considerable digital disruption. Often considered a laggard, many in construction recognize that innovation needs an infusion of investment to help it take off.
As one example, Hensel Phelps recognizes emerging construction building methods and technologies have the potential to transform the building process—and that technologies from small startups can push the envelope. To foster this growth, the construction company has launched Diverge, which is a new investment company within Hensel Phelps specializing in construction innovation and technology.
Diverge works with innovation partners and technology startups to source, evaluate, invest, and deploy new construction innovations to assist in developing new solutions.
Hensel Phelps says that by investing in these startups and their products in the early stages of development, it can help influence construction technology in a positive way, creating success for both companies as well as the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry.
One very interesting component of all of this is Hensel Phelps recognizes the importance of people, processes, and partnerships in innovation. The company is looking for employees to give constructive feedback about the products they are using—as it recognizes they are the ones who contribute to the end result and ultimately that the employees are the ones who will leverage the systems to make processes on projects more efficient and effective.
Certainly, the technology firms that are working with Hensel Phelps will also benefit in this arrangement by allowing their products to be tested in real-life scenarios and evaluated directly by the target audience—the construction professional. Construction innovators are encouraged to pitch their ideas to Diverge, which is currently accepting new submissions for evaluation.
Going forward, Diverge is going to focus on identifying and evaluating solutions that have the potential to break through and advance how the industry plans, builds, and manages construction projects.
This is an interesting approach to innovation—and certainly not a new one—and while the benefits are certainly evident such as spurring digital transformation in an industry that desperately needs it, I wonder how successful a program like this is in the long term. Investment always changes the game. We will watch as this continues to make new disruption emerge in the construction industry.
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