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Mind the gap

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Alex Siljanovski, founder and CEO of BaseStone, looks at how London is bridging startups and transport infrastructure.

Getting from A to B is about to get a lot more exciting – much like our tech startup scene, the UK’s transport infrastructure is booming.

With the completion of Crossrail just around the corner and High Speed 2 in the pipeline, we are on track to transform transport across the capital and connect the rest of the UK.

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The effect on our economy, quality of life and welfare will be profound and enduring.

However these mega infrastructure projects are not only highly complex and ambitious, building them spans decades. Much like technology disruption has transformed countless industries including finance, retail and manufacturing, it leads us to the question of how tech startups can improve the way we build the transport infrastructure of the future.

Barriers

As with any traditional industry, the construction industry faces many barriers to adopting new technology. This needs to be addressed to allow us to sustainably and efficiently build infrastructure of the future.

There is a movement towards breaking down these barriers, and to promote cross-disciplinary and open discussion. BaseStone’s Construct//Disrupt is a growing community created to bridge the gap between the construction industry and the latest tech startups. And the response has been phenomenal.

At Construct//Disrupt’s latest event, Bibop Gresta, COO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), one of the companies building Musk’s 760mph capsule-based transportation system, delivered the keynote. It was the only time HTT were speaking in the UK as part of their world tour.

He announced that: “We see the UK as one of the first possible candidates for the construction of a full length Hyperloop.”

Gresta added that “London and the UK are one of Europe’s leading tech entrepreneurship centres with a thriving startup ecosystem and world class innovative transport infrastructure projects – it’s great to be on the scene at such an exciting time.”

The UK is becoming a hotspot for innovation in construction and transportation infrastructure.

Sustainability

However the adoption of new technologies on such complex projects is another matter and it takes projects, organisations and individuals to champion tech startups within the industry.

At the same event, Andrea Charlson, sustainability expert at High Speed 2 (HS2) spoke about how sustainability and innovative technologies will be embedded into the UK’s £43bn rail project set to kick off in 2017.

Charlson said: “Successfully deployed innovation will be critical to the success of HS2. Not only can it help reduce costs and cut timescales, it can deliver the benefits to business, people and places whilst lessening the negative impact we have on the environment and communities.”

And it’s not just talk – this is really happening. BaseStone, our app for engineers to collaborate and improve communication between the construction site and the office, has been embraced by innovators at Crossrail and is revealing significant potential cost savings.

This is just one example of new technologies being embedded in transport infrastructure projects, helping us all to reap benefits.

Disruption ahead

A mark of great engineering is that it quickly becomes unnoticed – raising the very quality of people’s lives. Few realise the true importance of the construction industry to our economy and welfare. Transport infrastructure is just one of the ways in which it touches our lives.

There is real innovation being driven into a risk-averse industry, led by the UK’s forward-thinking and ambitious infrastructure projects. With real discussion and collaboration between tech startups and the construction industry, we can build smarter, more sustainable cities and infrastructure.

It’s more than just getting from A to B. Only time will tell how quickly we can overcome the barriers to get there.

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