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Marie Gilmour, Crossrail, IoT Forum, How does a project planned 10 years ago use ideas that weren't invented?
Since January last year, I’ve held the role of Crossrail Innovation Manager. Crossrail is the biggest construction project in Europe today, and Crossrail’s Innovation programme, Innovate18, is the first example a systematically managing innovation and collaboration in a major construction programme.
My name is Marie Gilmour, I’m an Innovation Champion with The Nichols Group. The Nichols Group is a management Consultancy, specializing in simplifying complex projects. I’m here today to tell you about my best Consultancy role ever
Crossrail is building London’s newest railway line –”the Elizabeth line”. It will include 40 stations, 10 completely new, running from Reading in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. Through 42 km of tunnels already constructed under central London.
(the pink on the map indicates new tunnel, the blue is upgraded railway and stations) Rather than flood you with facts….
What better way to appreciate the magnitude of this project, than to have a fly through the tunnels…
The classic delivery challenge is to deliver a fixed scope for an agreed cost within an agreed time window, all to acceptable quality. Crossrail is no different, and the only way to deliver such a complex project is to manage these factors, avoiding unnecessary change. Often, there is a perception that Innovation will introduce risk, possibly by introducing unproven technology or solutions, or simply by introducing change, that will impact costs and contracts throughout the supply chain. So how do we introduce Innovation to a mega project?.........................
……………..And we take it step by step. We have identified a number of improvement opportunities, and have supported a number of projects providing a safe proving ground for new technologies. So how do we do that?
Why Innovate18? It’s called Innovate 18 – shortened to Innovate18 – because the Elizabeth Line will start running in 2018, building up incrementally. The entire Crossrail project is focussed on that, and our Innovation programme is closely aligned with Crossrails strategic delivery objectives. We focus on 4 strategic themes : Health and Safety, Sustainability, Digital Integration, and Efficiency. How does it work – Tier 1 suppliers contribute – Crossrail match funds – providing skin in the game. The whole programme is founded on Collaboration and Culture We have a small, lean team, and we work with a network of Innovation champions across the project, creating an innovation network which allows us to deliver way beyond the capacity of the team. Engagement models – Bottom up, sharing and pinching, seed funding Funding enabling POCs Support top down, innovation enabled and empowered bottom up
The programme itself has evolved since the idea was first proposed in 2011, and its success has surprised the industry. As Innovate18 is now well into its last year, we hope to migrate to an industry innovation programme. The Vision is to replicate and improve upon the good practice established, and create a strategic innovation capability across a number of infrastructure projects, innovating at a strategic level to support the UK infrastructure industry.
One of the things we are proud to have demonstrated is that is eminently possible for start-ups and SMEs to engage and win work on mega projects. I wont pretend its easy, but I’ve got some examples of different engagement methods, and hopefully some learning points.
Reading University 3D Move, in collaboration with Imperial College and Fullcro. We actively seek to work with Universities and their partners…..Crossrail and our suppliers have commissioned some research to understand behaviours – barriers and enablers to introduction of immersive technologies for Interactive Design Reviews. Thanks to 2011 government mandate that all government funded projects must use collaborative 3D model environments, Crossrail has developed the capability to use BIM models to improve efficiency, and we are constantly looking at how we can embed improvements. This method of engagement is arguably the easiest for us, as by its nature, research topics tend to have unique elements.
Innovate18 has a team of 4, and part of the day job is networking. The team is also naturally curious. This means that when we go to events we have sought out opportunities, and we like to consider all ideas presented. One example - Adam Beard of Human Zoo contacted me following an Innovate UK event. He told me about his learning product, Download, and at the time it struck a chord – partly because I was studying Anatomy at the time, and would have killed for a miracle learning method! Through that engagement, Crossrail is now running a small training trial.
Basestone and their red-line reporting system is an example of how collaboration works. The idea was proposed by one of our Tier 1s, and we funded a small proof of concept. The results were so impressive, that the news spread, and a number of other Tier 1s engaged directly with Basestone to buy product licences. There are other factors that made this successful – Basestone understood the industry, came up with an idea to use technology to solve a problem, and so brought a solution to the table. Its easier to invest in a Solution than in a Product!
We have a few different examples where we have defined a challenge – to varying levels of detail – and thrown that open to the market. One example was a smart construction challenge via IC Tomorrow, part of Innovate UK. The challenge was to come up with a proof of concept using Augmented or Virtual Reality, that could potentially bring some value to the final stages of Crossrail delivery and handover. The winner was Soluis, who are working on a solution using hands free safety compliant helmet which can be worn in a construction environment. A construction worker can visit site, hands free interact with an asset, access and read information related to the asset from the cloud – such as installation or maintenance instructions – use the AR technology to complete the work safely. This method is unfortunately time consuming, so we realistically we need to work with an agent such as Innovate UK. The downside for SME’s is that only the shortlisted ones get the opportunity for a “foot in the door”. We’ve been told by some of our contacts that the level of effort can be significant.
And of course there are frameworks. For solutions where we have a set of simple requirements, this will be the easiest way for us to procure without going to competition. An example is the redevelopment of our collaboration portal. The drawback is that if the framework is established on a 3 year cycle, or for the duration of the mega project (10 years +), it may exclude startups and new technology. Other potential solutions might be to use technology brokers, but the cost of that was considered too much of a draw from our seed funding. Perhaps there are different ways. So where does that leave us?
Innovate18 has come a long way, and we know that the next mega projects will pick up where we left of, and do an even better job.
And for the avoidance of doubt – Is the Internet of Things relevant to the construction industry? ABSOLUTELY! HAS IT ALL BEEN SOLVED - absolutely not. Examples – sensors in construction vs lifecycle.
At project initiation – works will start soon
So what can your industry learn about engaging with a mega project? I believe the message is the same for the Innovation community, the mega-projects and the supply chain, and it’s all down to collaboration and offering solutions. In the words of Abraham Lincoln. Thankyou.
Marie Gilmour, Crossrail, IoT Forum 2016
Crossrail’s Innovation Journey
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Crossrail’s Innovation Journey
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Innovate18 Club Members
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