Critical juncture: EY report highlights essential role of innovation in future proofing the industry

by | Feb 22, 2023

Pictured above is report author Annette Hughes, Director of EY Ireland Economic Advisory Services

The construction industry must prioritise digital technology and innovation to ensure a sustainable sector in Ireland. That’s according to a report launched at The Next Generation Construction event, hosted by the CIF and EY.

Key challenges, however, remain around the adoption of Modern Methods of Construction including capital and financing as well as specialised labour requirements.

“This report focuses on future proofing the construction industry in Ireland by formulating a strategy for the next decade with innovation, digital technology and sustainability at the core,” says report author Annette Hughes, Director of EY Ireland Economic Advisory Services.

“There are challenges ahead, however, adopting smart construction and digital technology has the potential to transform the construction industry and significantly increase the production of quality, energy efficient new homes.”

A focus on technology will help provide the social, economic and productive infrastructure required to sustain economic growth and attract foreign direct investment in Ireland.

“Post the Covid-19 pandemic, Irish construction stands at a crossroads. We cannot afford to stand still,” says Sean Downey, CIF Director of Specialist Contracting.

“We have to move to a new level of performance driven by both productivity and sustainability. Some leaders in the construction industry have adopted new technological processes and more advanced construction systems to deliver value to their clients and our vision is for this transformation to be adopted by all players in the industry.”

The MMC approach

The report, A Detailed Description of Needs for the Irish Construction/Built Environment Sector, identified the Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) approach to building has the potential to increase the speed of new homes through the adoption of innovation by 30 per cent, reduce costs by a potential 25 per cent and advance improvements in quality and energy efficiency.

“The advancements in construction technologies are reshaping the future of the construction industry globally,” adds EY Partner Simon MacAllister.

“We need to create opportunities for the industry in Ireland to bring these technologies into Irish projects. The report also found that four-in-10 construction firms are not using any automated technologies, while just 38 per cent state there was a ‘great’ or ‘very great extent’ to which their firm was likely to engage in innovation.

The aim of the report is to inform the design of a bespoke Construction Technology Centre to empower industry ownership of the research, development, and innovation processes required to deliver a more sustainable and competitive construction sector.

“To fully transform construction enterprises by enabling the adoption of digital technology, it must be noted that true digital business transformation is an ongoing process that requires cultural change,” says Ross O’ Colmain, Department Manager, High Tech Construction and Housing with Enterprise Ireland.


The report outlines a total of 11 key recommendations for the Construction Technology Centre and urges it to establish a Sustainability Action Plan within the first 90 days.

The Sustainability Action Plan will keep the centre focused and accountable, by ensuring that every action undertaken is concerned with building a sustainable environment within the industry.

Based on the experience in centres across other jurisdictions, and the funding typically allocated to same, the funding should comprise a mix of government, industry, and other sources over time.

Centres of this nature will likely require cumulative funding of €10 to €15 million in their initial years.

Report in numbers

  • 40% of construction firms are not currently using any form of automated technologies
  • 62% of firms believe modular construction will be of ‘great importance’ or of ‘very great importance’ in the next 10 years
  • The use of ‘smart construction’ has been proven to increase productivity and the efficiencies of the construction sector from between 10 – 20%
  • Just 7.4% of firms regarding Off-Site Manufacturing/Modern Methods of Construction as being their main activity
  • 75% of firms said a technology sandbox – a place to explore the latest technologies without having to purchase them – would benefit them
  • Barriers preventing firms from implementing new technologies in Ireland include the day-to-day running of the business (59%), a lack of time (51%) and lack of financial incentives to do so (47%)
  • 52% of firms were not interested in robotics or automation
  • 50% were not interested in materials prototyping

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