Assessing construction innovation: theoretical and practical perspectives
Innovation is key for productivity improvement and advancements in different sectors of the economy, including the construction sector. The criticism of the slow pace of innovation in construction industry may be unwarranted, considering the structure of the industry and nature of the construction business. The loosely coupled nature of firms, mostly Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s), delivering ‘projects’ through partial engagement, together with the distinction between the project innovation and firm innovation makes it difficult to extract innovations in a meaningful way. The problem also lies in conceptualising, defining, articulating and assessing innovation in construction. The literature is replete with research into construction innovation, however, there is limited research into understanding how innovation is perceived and narrated in practice. The paper aims to explore how innovation is assessed and narrated in construction, specifically analysing theory and practice perspectives. A theoretical model was constructed from a structured literature review illustrating existing discourse and narratives of construction innovation assessment. A qualitative analysis of ‘Professional Excellence in Building’ submission documents to the Australian Institute of Building was performed to identify the practice perspective of innovation. The findings suggest that internal organizational and process innovation account for the majority of improvements identified. Importantly a taxonomy of narrative is developed that articulates how the construction industry in Australia views industry innovation.
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