Systems integration in digitally enabled modular building

Capacity Building in the Nottingham-Derby-Sheffield Region

Royal Academy of Engineering Regional Engagement Award, Oct 2018-Ongoing

What is the goal?

The goal is to gain impact from our research to benefit local economies in the region bounded by Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield by improving capabilities for the systems integration in digitally enabled modular building through the construction supply base. This is a leading UK region for innovation in the delivery of modular buildings, with good transport links and a strong manufacturing base.

Objectives include:

  • Tailoring emerging tools and processes for systems integration to the SMEs in this regional supply chain; and
  • Disseminating best practice on the use of tools for systems engineering in infrastructure, drawing on recent research and developments in the international research community.

Supporting the Construction Leadership Council strategy of restart, reset and reinvent, this work is particularly timely. There is significant potential to support economic recovery by up-skilling the supply-base.

We are working with key stakeholders in the region – Laing O’Rourke’s Explore Industrial Park; Rolls Royce; the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC); the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and East Midland Chambers as well as local small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

What are we working on?

The main priority is to develop a toolkit to support digitally enabled modular building in the region. Current work includes:

  1. A survey of SMEs systems integration challenges in digitally-enabled modular building;
  2. Development of the toolkit of available tools and approaches to systems integration through the supply-chain for digitally-enabled modular building;

How to engage with us?

If you are interested in this project please:

  • Explore the freely available resources below;
  • Join our Centre mailing list for updates on events and outputs of this project and all our other research; or
  • Alternatively, email, putting “RAEng Regional Award” in the subject line, for information on our forward events on this project only.

What have we done to date?

To date this work has created a number of freely available resources:


1. Summary of Modular Construction and Digital Manufacturing event at Factory 2050, Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield on 16 January 2019. This event attracted a capacity audience and was held jointly with Professor Ash Tiwari, University of Sheffield. Speakers included Mark Farmer, and breakout sessions tackled the questions:
    1. How can you/SMEs build capacity to enhance the productivity of the supply chain for modular construction? Tools for supply chain integration, Alliances, New businesses process 
   2. What support do you/SMEs need to engage in modular construction? Policies in regional or national level, Industry-university partnership, Local vs global partnership
   3. How can you/SMEs use digital technologies in modular construction? Digital technologies and newcomers (IoT, Big Data, BIM, VR, Amazon), Digital platforms New managerial practices

RAE slides
Summary of the day

2. Presentation of policy-oriented work on relationships between regional stakeholders, activities across the supply-chain, and inter-regional relationships:

R. Zhang, L. Mosca and J. Whyte, (2019) Regional Innovation Systems and the Transformation of construction into a Manufacturing Process.  Proceeding of the 35th Annual ARCOM conference, 2-4 September 2019, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK. Association of Researchers in Construction Management, pp. 284-293.

Conference paper
RAE slidesRAE slidesRAE slides

3. Professor Whyte’s invited Oral evidence to Lord’s Select Committee Inquiry on Offsite Manufacturing for Construction, 24 April 2018, House of Commons, London, UK.

4. The Systems Engineering toolkit for Infrastructure version 1.0 – see also our introductory video

5. On Wednesday 4 November 2020 we held a free webinar discussing how to find opportunity and value in these challenging times. The webinar was specifically aimed at small and medium sized firms working in or supplying construction in the Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield areas. We worked with academic partners and with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnerships, and the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce to start a conversation on reframing and reorganizing construction in the region in these particularly challenging times. More details on the event can be found here.

How to engage with us?

Project Team: Professor Jennifer Whyte and Dr Luigi Mosca

Funding information

This impact activity is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering through a Regional Impact Award. It is to ensure the impact of research through Professor Whyte’s Royal Academy of Engineering and Laing O’Rourke Professorship in Systems Integration and the associated research team.