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Digital transformation of construction SMEs in partnership with technology firms: A business model perspective


School of the Built Environment

About the Project

Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK construction are “key drivers for economic growth, innovation, employment and social integration”. Despite their key role in the industry, SMEs find it difficult to break into the market for larger, particularly public sector, projects. Several reasons were attributed to this problem including, but not limited to, the government’s pre-qualification questionnaires, authoritarian top down procedures by the government and the lack of required digital platforms within SMEs. The focus of this proposal is on the latter.
The construction industry is moving towards offsite construction and, considering the crucial role of SMEs in delivering projects, the path to successful offsite construction is through digitalised SMEs. Many of smaller firms lack the key resources to create and deliver the value propositions necessitates from a digitised enterprise. This research aims to explore the opportunity of a working partnership between construction SMEs and technology firms. This shall allow construction firms to use the resources of the technology firms for an improved digital infrastructure and allow the technology firms to gain access to the construction market. Specifically, this research adopts a service ecosystem approach in analysing such inter-firm relationships to explore and theorise mechanisms through which SMEs and technology firms identify, build, develop and fully utilise relationships. These mechanisms may include the evolution of institutions at macro-, meso- and micro-level of analysis, such as government policies (macro), inter-firm contracts (meso) and internal procedures (micro).
The study is based on the fundamental concepts of business model that would enable the researcher to map the current business strategies of the firms and to identify the companies’ customer segments and value propositions. Depending on the particular interest of the researcher and their background, theories related to business development and human technology interaction shall provide appropriate conceptual frameworks to analyse the data, contribute to the knowledge and develop practical solutions. A functional partnership that meets the interests of both construction and technology firms creates a platform through which they can diversify their customer segment and increase their profit, resilience and reputation.

Funding Notes

Candidates should have first class or 2.1 degree or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject and should be interested in applying social science approaches to construction projects.

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