Innovation, research and development

Innovation plays an important role in creating additional value for the Group and ultimately its customers. Most of Balfour Beatty’s innovation emanates from collaboration with its customers, joint ventures and supply chain, and internally across the businesses.

The examples provided below illustrate how the Group has used creative solutions on its projects to deliver savings and benefits for its customers.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) and 3D modelling

Using high-density ground penetrating radar technology combined with BIM to map and model underground services as a 3D design, Balfour Beatty is able to identify potential clashes early on. For example, on the Dartford Crossing free-flow project over 400 clashes between the proposed design and existing services were found. This allowed changes to be made in advance of work starting, saving time and money. Ground penetrating radar and BIM are also used extensively across the US business.

The Rail business developed a new software package known as R.E.D. (Railway Electrification Designer) in anticipation of the BIM Level 2 changes in 2016 for centrally funded railway projects in the UK. Railways are more complex than buildings. Unlike the building market, there is no national BIM library for Overhead Line Electrification (OLE) projects, so all suppliers have to model and attach asset information to each component, which takes a significant amount of time.

Apart from generating 3D models, R.E.D. is able to detect ground profile models and understand how these interact with foundations, enabling correct geospatial placement of OLE models. R.E.D. also dynamically attaches information to each 3D component as it is modelled.

The Group uses 3D mapping data across its highways projects in the UK to:

  • analyse accident hotspots from RTIs or cone and varioguard strikes to keep the workforce safe
  • provide map overlays for engineers to understand road layouts for resurfacing lanes and planning traffic management
  • provide land registry and land owner information.

In Hong Kong, Gammon uses drones to survey sites by taking photos and superimposing these images onto the 3D model to allow stereoscopic photo interpretation and image photogrammetry, significantly reducing costs. Other examples from its operations in Hong Kong are the use of a curtain wall installation robot and an automatic plastering machine.

For the Rossall coastal defence scheme a drone was used to survey the placement of rock armour ensuring that the correct grades and placement of rock was in line with the designs. Prior to using the drone for these surveys the engineers would have used cherry pickers or walked across the rock armour. A drone can undertake a complete survey within 20 minutes.

The Group has also helped local communities and emergency services inspect the devastating flood damage caused by the storms in the North West of England by utilising one of its drones.

Collaboration with universities

Innovation is informed by research work at several academic partner organisations, including Salford University (BIM), Bristol University (systems engineering), Liverpool John Moores University (condition monitoring), Sheffield University (smart buildings), University College London (future leaders in infrastructure, 3D repo and radar), Manchester University (overhead line structures and composite crossarms), and Loughborough University (accounting for whole-life carbon emissions from highways maintenance contracts), Cambridge University (e-luminate, merging art, music and light), and Queen’s University Belfast (resource efficiency through BIM).

In the US, the Group has taught students and funded research at Penn State University, Stanford University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Virginia Tech, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Balfour Beatty provides guest lecturers on BIM to the University of Middlesex, Abertay University and Ulster University for their BIM management courses.


Balfour Beatty was recognised for its expertise at the 2015 British Construction Industry Awards, the annual celebration of building and civil engineering achievements. Balfour Beatty celebrated success in four categories, including: The BIM Project Application Award for construction of the National Graphene Institute for the University of Manchester, the Product Design Innovation Award for the Crossrail Liverpool Street and Whitechapel Station Tunnels project and a Building Project of the Year Award for its construction of the Aloft hotel in Liverpool.

Connect Plus Services, a joint venture between Balfour Beatty, Atkins and Egis Road Operation also celebrated a win for the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge expansion joint replacement scheme in the Temporary Works Award category.

Balfour Beatty also won the major category at the Institution of Civil Engineers South West Civil Engineering Awards that celebrates outstanding civil engineering achievement, innovation and ingenuity for the construction of a new sea wall and implementation of slope stabilisation measures to the east of Lyme Regis, providing protection for houses, infrastructure and other assets from landslides.

The Group’s US construction division recently won the buildingSMART Hong Kong International BIM award 2015 for the campus improvement programme of the University of San Diego and its expansion of the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering.

The team was able to resolve 261 clashes digitally and used digital docs to hyperlink drawings to the workflow in the cloud so that all contractors could access these. The BIM model was linked to the school asset management system to allow future preventive maintenance to be carried out. The team also won Oracle’s Sustainability Innovation Award for 2015 for programming JD Edwards software to collect carbon data for its US operations.


Other innovations are powered by employee insights which tackle mega trends such as urbanisation, resource scarcity and climate change. Balfour Beatty is undertaking research on two projects funded by Innovate UK. One is in collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast and the University of the West of England to devise a new BIM tool that designers and contractors can use to successfully predict and reduce waste at the design phase.

The other research project is with technology start-up 3DRepo and the Association of Interior Specialists to support the development of a new innovative procurement application called Bid4Free. The application reduces the cost of bidding by digitising transactions.

Elsewhere, other innovations include Gammon’s development of a Green Concrete range. It is the only supplier in Hong Kong to offer low carbon concrete solutions that are PAS 2050:2011 certified and the first to have achieved labels in the Hong Kong Construction Industry Council’s Carbon Labelling Scheme, with six products achieving Grade A (‘Outstanding’) and four achieving Grade B (‘Excellent’).

The Group has developed a new smartphone/tablet app called snapfile with its JV partners Skanska on the M25 to asset tag over 1,000 motorway assets and capture them on a 3D model. Workers were assigned iPads to collect the asset data. As work proceeded, issues – structural defects, missing signs, poor paint finishes – were photographed and their locations could be fine-tuned using Google Street View, which is incorporated in Ontrack’s browser-based system. The software helped close the gap between site and office-based project staff through real time reporting, saving valuable time. An added benefit of the system is that it helps ensure that problems are closed off before traffic management measures are lifted. Rectifying these later can be very costly.

To improve safety awareness on sites, Gammon has developed a new safety training system which uses gaming technology and virtual reality to create an interactive, and engaging, first-person experience.

3D printing

Gammon used 3D printing to develop roof designs at Midfield Concourse at Hong Kong International Airport and new visualisation software solutions in Singapore. Gammon’s concrete department has also been working with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on a study into the manufacture of partition wall blocks from cement slurry waste and fine recycled concrete aggregates.

The research involves carbonation of formed blocks which sequester (or capture) CO2 from industrial applications such as flue gases.

Balfour Beatty has produced a scaled 3D printed model for a large section of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station. Each component has been individually printed to allow both the customer and the Group’s own team to understand how the power station will be constructed.

Mock-up prints

In the US, Balfour Beatty has been using re-positionable textile graphics for the majority of items that need to be installed on drywalls such as in the redevelopment of BC Children’s and BC Women’s Redevelopment Project, where over US$121,000 was saved through the use of this system. Mock-ups of items such as outlets, air diffusers, fire sprinklers, time clocks, data jacks and dialysis boxes were printed and then positioned on the drywalls for different types of rooms so that the end users could be consulted on how these worked dimensionally within the room. This low tech solution ensured that end users received a solution that was optimised to their needs, reducing potential rework, unnecessary trim outs and time.

Innovative finance

Together with WattzOn, Balfour Beatty launched a new financial energy model called “Negawatts” to allow companies to purchase energy savings and effectively fund behaviour change programmes for military housing contracts managed by Balfour Beatty. Negawatts is a hybrid between a power purchase agreement (where energy is purchased at a reduced rate over an agreed period of time) and an energy savings performance contract (with guaranteed savings shared between the end user and the provider).


Innovation champions across the businesses capture, share and promote innovation. The ability to collaborate has been enhanced by the growth in communities of practice, internal competitions, and the deployment of training in collaborative working practices, and through ongoing Group-wide accreditation to the standard BS 11000 Collaborative Business Relationships. 2015 also saw the introduction of “My Contribution” which is an internal open platform for submitting business improvement ideas.


Developing skills & talent

People and leadership

The quality of its people, their commitment and engagement is what defines Balfour Beatty.

The Group’s people strategy is about inspiring its people to excel. This new strategy forms a key element of the Group’s transformation programme – Build to Last. Balfour Beatty continued to invest in its people in 2015, through the training and development of its existing employees and targeted external recruitment as necessary.

These training and development programmes operate within the context of a Group-wide talent review process, which ensures consistent methodology and visibility of talent, so that succession planning, leadership training and development interventions are applied in the most effective way possible utilising the Group’s scale and scope of activities.

In 2015 the first Group-wide employee engagement survey was completed using Best Companies in order to benchmark versus other companies. The results will be used to drive coordinated actions in order to improve employee engagement, which will enhance the Group’s business performance.

Emerging talent

Balfour Beatty is a member of The 5% Club and is committed to the aim of ensuring that, within the next two years, 5% of its UK workforce are apprentices, graduates or sponsored students on structured development programmes. The number of graduates and apprentices as a proportion of the Group’s UK workforce has increased in 2015 compared to 2014:

Table 1: Structured development programmes










Sponsored students



Total UK workforce



% of structured trainees



The Group’s UK businesses are supporting around 180 people studying part-time at local colleges and universities (2014: 230). The Group recruited 124 graduates and 145 apprentices in 2015. Balfour Beatty has been leading a consortium on behalf of the sector to support government reforms on apprenticeships for the construction industry gaining approval of 14 new Apprenticeships Standards for craft and technical/professional job roles.

In recognition of its work to develop young employees, Balfour Beatty’s Academy was shortlisted down to the final three organisations for the SEMTA Skills & Innovation Award 2015.

Upskilling the UK’s infrastructure workforce

During 2015, Balfour Beatty worked with the UK Government and received a grant to further develop the leadership and technical skills of its workforce and to attract people into the industry.

The Balfour Beatty Academy trained over 2,386 people in 2015 in a range of areas including programmes to upskill the craft workforce with the support of the Skills Funding Agency under the Employer Ownership of Skills fund. One of the programmes developed was the Construction Ambassador Scheme to promote careers within the industry.

The Balfour Beatty Academy will become the delivery vehicle for a range of management and leadership development programmes. It provides a focus for the Group’s UK activities and aims to ensure it is delivering in a coordinated and cost effective way.

As part of the Build to Last transformation programme the Group invested significantly in a number of new training initiatives; over 200 people have attended a High Value Selling programme and 250 people attended negotiation skills training, both designed to help improve the quality of work winning activities.

The Academy is developing a range of programmes to enhance technical and leadership skills in project management, commercial management, planning and design, and other functions. These will be fully rolled out during 2016.

The Group has invested in its project managers as a community to ensure they hold an APMP qualification. The programme was launched in June 2015 and to date 56 project managers have been trained.

Balfour Beatty works in partnership with The Prince’s Trust, which trains unemployed young people through its Get into Construction programme. Over the last five years, 400 young people completed this programme, learning while working on Balfour Beatty sites. About 70% of these people gained employment with the Group directly or with its supply chain.

Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion remain central to Balfour Beatty’s people strategy. The Group values diversity, encouraging and celebrating individual differences, believing that its inclusive culture helps the business continue to grow as a strong, dynamic and innovative organisation.

Key interventions are in place to enhance diversity and inclusion in Balfour Beatty’s core business. For example, the Group is supporting the UK Government’s 'Your Life' campaign, which is encouraging the study of STEM subjects among female students. The Group has further demonstrated its commitment to improving diversity by becoming a signatory to the WISE Ten Steps.

Further building on the Opportunity Now accreditation, a Connecting Women network forum continues to provide valuable support. However, the proportion of female employees has reduced in recent years with the disposals of Balfour Beatty WorkPlace in 2013 and Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2014.

Female employees across the workforce

A Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender (LGBT) network was established in 2014 as part of the Stonewall Diversity Champion programme. Balfour Beatty was the first infrastructure company to become a member of the OUTstanding LGBT professional network and is proud to be represented in the 2015 Financial Times Top 100 LGBT Business Leaders list.

The Group also strives to provide employment, training and development opportunities for disabled people wherever possible.

It is also committed to supporting employees who become disabled during employment and to helping disabled employees make the best use of their skills and potential, consistent with all other employees.

Table 2: Male and female representation

At 31 December 2015




% Male

% Female







Senior management1






Directors of subsidiaries












1 Members of Group head office and divisional senior leadership teams.

The Group remains committed to investing in industry-leading people throughout a period of considerable change. It is this commitment and the continued engagement of employees that will provide the foundations for Balfour Beatty’s recovery and future growth.