RAEng Regional Award


The goal is to use research through the Laing O’Rourke / Royal Academy of Engineering Professorship in Systems Integration to benefit local economies in the region bounded by Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield by improving capabilities in the systems integration in digitally enabled modular building through the construction supply base.

This region that crosses Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire is leading innovation in the UK in the delivery of modular buildings, with Laing O’Rourke’s Explore Manufacturing factory at Steetley, Rolls Royce (leader of the small modular reactor (SMR) programme) based at Derby, and the Manufacturing Technology Catapult Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) facilities in Sheffield. There is significant potential to up-skill this regional supply-base to achieve higher
productivity and quality and to retain competitiveness globally. This is timely and important as the recent U.K. industrial strategy highlights the potential to improve productivity in the construction sector, and the contribution of digital technologies (Building Information Modelling, Data Science, Robotics, etc) and advanced manufacturing approaches to achieve this.

Working with key stakeholders (the Laing O’Rourke’s factory in Steetley; small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, Rolls Royce and the AMRC), the objectives of this project are to:

  1. Develop capacity in the regional systems integration ecosystem;
  2. Map systems integration activities across the regional supply chain;
  3. Tailor emerging tools and processes for systems integration to the SMEs in this regional supply chain;
  4. Monitor the use of tools by SMEs in the supply chain and further develop the generic toolkit;
  5. Pilot new tools for the visualization of systems in digitally-enabled modular building supply chains; and
  6. Disseminate best practice on the use of tools for systems engineering in infrastructure, drawing on recent research and developments in the international research community.

Research Programme

The main activities will consolidate and apply knowledge to develop capacity in the regional systems integration ecosystem and to improve capabilities in the systems integration in digitally enabled modular building through the construction supply base. This involves four workpackages: Mapping the systems integration activities within the regional innovation system (WP1); Tailoring emerging tools and processes for systems integration (WP2); Monitoring tool-use (WP3); and Piloting new tools for visualization (WP4).

Key Dates

  • October 2018: Initiation meeting and kick-off workshop
  • February 2019: Map of the regional systems integration ecosystem, summarised in a report, developed following project stakeholder meeting and kick-off event in the region.
  • May 2019: New bespoke set of tools for systems integration, tailor emerging tools and processes for systems integration in this regional supply chain.
  • May 2020: Impacts of ongoing dissemination of existing knowledge and refined toolkit. Monitoring the use of tools by SMEs in the supply chain and further develop the generic toolkit.
  • Feb 2021: Project completion, with project outputs published into research literatures summarised in a final report.


It aimed to showcase recent thinking on modular offsite construction and digital manufacturing, translating research findings for use in SMEs and in systems integration across the supply-chain.


  • Zhang, R., Mosca, L. and Whyte, J. (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, 284-293.

Expected outcomes and impacts 

The project will support a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the region, bringing new ideas into the region to benefit regional stakeholders in construction and infratech, including SMEs, through knowledge transfer and through developing novel advanced manufacturing approaches to delivery of infrastructure. The anticipated outcomes include: Increased capacity of the supply base to develop integrated systems - providing higher quality outputs to building and infrastructure clients; Use of internationally leading research to improve systems integration across a range of stakeholders in the supply base; Use of tailored tools for systems integration; Better engagement of SMEs in services associated with systems integration.


Project Team: Professor Jennifer Whyte and Ruoheng Zhang