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Innovation readiness of public sector procurement practices in the construction industry (Advert Reference: SF19/EE/MCE/SAMWINGA)

Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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Dr V Samwinga , Prof D Greenwood Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Carillion’s collapse in January 2018, which will cost taxpayers at least £148 million and affected up to 30,000 subsidiary businesses, has intensified debate over the effectiveness of UK public procurement practices and how risk is dealt with. Representing the largest construction bankruptcy in British history, Carillion’s liquidation has been associated with “an aggressive approach to risk transfer” within public sector procurement practices, underspending and forcing contractors to take unacceptable levels of financial risks.

Cuts to public sector programmes have resulted in low contractor margins, which could be detrimental to public services and projects as well as meaningful innovation. According to the Oslo Manual 2018, an innovation “is a new or improved product or process (or combination thereof) that differs significantly from the unit’s previous products or processes and that has been made available to potential users (product) or brought into use by the unit (process).” The need for innovation in construction will only accelerate with increased momentum of what’s being referred to as Construction 4.0, a reference to the principles of the fourth industrial revolution, that seeks to merge physical and virtual environments using the Internet of Things (IoT), simulation and virtualisation.

The UK government, as construction’s main client, therefore plays a pivotal role in driving innovation within the sector. However, the sector is routinely depicted as a low innovation sector, with suggestions of a ‘lowest price mentality’ during contractor selection, which could potentially hamper meaningful innovation. Recently, the Construction Leadership Council, in ‘Procuring for Value’, recommended improvements in procurement practices towards an industry-wide approach to value that goes beyond capital cost towards whole-life value and performance.

This research will therefore investigate the extent to which procurement practices are innovation-ready, examining the interrelationships among current procurement practices, associated risk attitudes and the opportunities offered by innovative digital technologies.

This project is supervised by Dr Victor Samwinga.

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF19/EE/MCE/SAMWINGA) will not be considered.

Start Date: 1 March 2020 or 1 October 2020

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers.

Funding Notes

This is an unfunded research project.

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