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15 March 2005 PR 05/20

Europe desperately needs and deserves a better construction industry say European Construction Industry leaders

Underperformance in the European construction industry is costing the taxpayer up to €80 billion a year with productivity growth lagging behind the rest of the economy at a desperate 0.9% compared to 2.3% for all other industries.

A series of failings identified by the European Commission as early as 1997 has been largely ignored as the innovative, globally competitive construction industries in the US, Australia and Singapore threaten Europe. The ten crucial factors are quality, market factors, equitable operation of markets, the construction process, environmental concerns, human resources, technology, the structure of the sector and illegal practices.

Engineering construction, for long the source of many of the major innovations, is faltering across Europe as the process industries move to areas where feedstocks, energy and labour are cheaper and where demand is booming. Public Private Partnerships are emerging as a potential alternative to cash-strapped public sector finance, but making them work is not easy, and it has powerful critics and opponents in the UK.

Unequivocal recommendations of what must be done to save the European construction industry will be delivered by Sir Michael Latham and Bob Storey, President and Chairman of the European Construction Institute, headquartered at Loughborough University, at the annual conference on 17-18 March in Gateshead-Newcastle.

In his keynote address on 17 March, Sir Michael, a leading figure in the international construction industry, Deputy Chairman of Willmott Dixon Limited, Chairman of the British Construction Industry Training Board CITB – Construction Skills, author of the influential government / industry report Constructing the Team and an MP for 18 years, will outline the following recommendations to strengthen the European construction industry:

• R&D investment
• Freedom for employers to pursue their own ideas and develop creativity
• Encouragement of cross-fertilisation between divisions and functions
• Employment from a range of backgrounds and experience
• Development of strong customer ties
• Willingness to draw on knowledge and expertise from outside the company
• Networking with innovative companies

“Boosting performance through innovation is the only way to reform and prosper,” says Sir Michael. He continues, “Europe needs more innovative construction companies – customers as well as contractors and suppliers. Unless we pool our knowledge and share good practices with companies throughout Europe, we expose an already vulnerable industry to the US and other superpowers that have been reaping the benefits of sharing and developing good practice for years,” he concludes.

Bob Storey, ECI’s new Chairman, who is Vice President and Managing Director of CB&I Constructors, adds: “Good practice works. We have ample evidence that companies using good practice get better, quicker, safer construction projects at lower cost. The prognosis for Europe is indeed dire unless we can turn the corner and emulate our rivals. Everyone in the European construction supply chain must take responsibility for boosting performance through networking and sharing good practice. The industry simply cannot continue going it alone and repeating the same costly mistakes.” He concludes, “As incoming chairman of the ECI, I aim to ensure that the good practice that we have developed is understood and applied throughout Europe. This represents an enormous challenge and there is no time to waste.”

ECI is Europe’s only transnational learning and innovation network covering the entire construction supply chain. Established in 1990, it brings together experienced professionals from over 60 private and public sector organisations representing the whole spectrum of the European construction industry. With both its headquarters and UK base at Loughborough University, it has operations in Italy, Ireland and Benelux.

For further information contact:

Notes to editors

  1. Members of the press are very welcome to attend the ECI’s sixteenth Annual conference at the Hilton Hotel, Gateshead-Newcastle Thursday 17 – Friday 18 March. Sir Michael Latham will deliver the keynote address on Thursday at 7.15pm and Bob Storey will be speak at 7.10pm. Please contact Gareth Thomas in advance (see below) if you wish to attend any of the conference.
  2. Both Sir Michael Latham and Bob Storey are available for comment by contacting Gareth Thomas.
  3. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place Loughborough in the top flight of UK universities, and industry highlights Loughborough in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 45% of the University’s income is for research. The University has been awarded four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; and for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development.

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