Sam Stacey will head up the Transforming Construction Challenge, a £170m research and innovation fund targeting innovative new construction processes and techniques.
Linked to the Construction Sector Deal, the programme includes funding for research, a new construction network and the creation of an active building centre and innovation hub.
The challenge fund is part of a £1.7bn investment in R&D that is delivered by UKRI to stimulate the UK’s research base and innovative businesses to address industrial and societal challenges.
UKRI was created in April 2018 and brings together the seven existing research councils, as well as Innovate UK and the Research and Knowledge Exchange functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), in one unified body.
During his time at Skanska, Stacey helped the company to win a £700,000 grant to develop the use of robots for onsite and offsite construction, as well as last year trialling augmented reality hard hats.
A key aspect of his role will be to bring researchers and businesses together to identify construction innovations.
A chartered structural engineer, who has degrees from Cambridge University and Imperial College, London, and an MBA from Henley Business School, Stacey said: “The UK has some of the best engineering, architectural and construction firms in the world, but the sector as a whole lags others such as manufacturing.
“I firmly believe that the Challenge Fund award and the Industrial Strategy sector deal represent an opportunity to take the UK construction industry from one of the world’s best to an absolute world-beater. I am very much looking forward to leading it.”
UKRI chief executive, professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “This challenge provides an opportunity to transform UK construction productivity. Sam has an important role in overseeing the funding to develop these new innovative construction materials and techniques.
“His commitment to harnessing new technology and processes, and his experience across academia and business, make him the ideal candidate to drive forward the challenge.”