A KEY figure in the UK’s construction industry has outlined his thoughts on the post-COVID future of the sector.

Mark Farmer, CEO of real estate and construction consultancy Cast, was named the Government’s new Champion for Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) by Housing Minister the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP last November.

He addressed members of the North East construction sector online recently when he gave his take on the inherent weaknesses the pandemic has exposed, and what the sector needs to focus on in the wake of the crisis.

In his address, Building Back Better: Construction Post Covid19, Mark highlighted the importance of innovation and MMC in safeguarding the future of the sector and emphasised how supportive policy and industry action is still needed to ensure construction accelerates its transformation.

Mark is widely respected for his groundbreaking 2016 report Modernise or Die, or The Farmer Report, which identified key failings in the UK construction industry. During his Building Back Better speech he also talked of the opportunities for the region’s construction sector.

The event was hosted by Northumbria University in collaboration with partners including Dynamo North East; the International Centre for Connected Construction (IC3) a project led by Northumbria University; Construction Excellence in the North East (CENE); One Voice; Construction Industry Council (CIC) North East, and the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education (MOBIE).

Alistair McLeod, Director of Gray Fox Consulting, is working with Dynamo to engage with the construction sector regionally and promote it nationally. He is a digital consultant who has been working in the construction industry for 15 years.

“It is great to see Northumbria University’s continued commitment to boosting the region’s existing reputation for digital construction with this event. Mark Farmer’s talk was a great way for the region’s construction ecosystem to understand the challenges facing the industry post-COVID, but it was also a huge opportunity for the regional sector to promote and showcase how much progress we’ve made in the north east,” he said.

“Mark is a key figure in the industry and a champion for modern methods of construction and the benefits that brings. His address gave us the chance to tell him how closely the north east’s construction sector is working together while collaborating externally with the region’s growing tech and digital sector. This work is nowhere more evident than the IC3 project, with the construction and tech sectors working closely together for a common aim.

“Northumbria University has done a great job at leading this diverse and growing consortium of government, industry and academia to attract funding to bring the vision of Dynamo’s digital construction cluster to life – first securing £100,000 from the NELEP to develop a ten-year business case last year, and then successfully being shortlisted in wave two of the UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund.

“IC3 is one of just 17 projects shortlisted for a chance to secure up to £50million to support an innovative programme of activity to boost the region’s trailblazing cluster for maximum economic benefit.

“I have been working closely with the team at Northumbria University and the wider consortium to support the development of a full stage bid – and I have to say the response has been very positive. There has been a lot of interest in engaging with us and suggesting possible projects. We have six projects already being worked on and at least another six in the pipeline,” said Alistair.

Charlie Hoult, Chair of Dynamo, added: “We hope Mark Farmer took away the message that the north east is leading on BIM, and the IC3 project is good to go. We’re a region used to pulling together and Dynamo has played a leading role in getting both sectors to work collaboratively internally and externally.

“Alistair McLeod and our cluster manager Dawn Dunn have worked closely with partners including Northumbria University and Waterstons to engage the construction and tech sectors and got them working together on real-life challenges. We’ve taken huge strides forwards through digital innovation days and we’ve been a successful conduit to new, meaningful partnerships between the sectors and individual companies.

“That’s a strong message for Mark Farmer to send out to the UK wide construction sector.”

Dynamo North East is a business-led organisation with the core mission of ‘Growing the north east tech economy through collaboration, innovation, skills and noise.’ With more than 160 members, it is made up of IT organisations, large corporate employers in the region, consultants, technology hubs, education providers, local government and suppliers to the industry.


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