All aboard the Contech revolution!

Venture capital investments in Contech increased from €2 billion in 2020 to over €3.5 billion in 2021. Guillaume Bazouin, head of the Startup and intrapreneurs programmes, analyses the reasons behind this trend and its promising impact on the future of construction.

Why is Contech a good response to the challenges facing construction today?

Contech offers a wide range of innovative solutions. And we certainly need a large variety of solutions, because the breadth of problems has grown and intensified in recent years. The challenges of productivity, the environmental impacts of activities, protection of site workers and recruitment difficulties are not new – but they are entering a critical stage. The need to be better equipped and to adapt certain practices is now vital, especially since changes are also required following major amendments to laws and regulations governing the construction sector. But current approaches are not sufficient to respond to the issues we need to address. Contech therefore represents a pool of new solutions, especially since technologies that were non-existent or economically unviable until very recently are now feasible and precisely respond to the operational challenges facing construction.

What are Contech’s key technologies?

Without promising to be exhaustive, and in no particular order, let’s start with drones. They are now very affordable and regulations exist for professional applications, so they are emerging as a transformative technology. Another obvious transformative factor is the smartphone. Construction couldn’t be digitalised until it was possible to have lightweight terminals with robust connectivity on all sites. Now we all carry these in our pockets. Digital information can be uploaded directly from worksites. Key technologies enjoying strong growth in Contech obviously include artificial intelligence, in the form of both automatic image recognition and robotic devices, with varying degrees of automation. The number of “computer vision” applications, for identifying objects, recording dimensions, etc., is increasing rapidly. Real-time worksite monitoring is clearly a very interesting use case. The same technology will also make it possible to respond effectively to changes in the law obliging manufacturers to manage their waste flows. Low-cost solutions now exist to automate waste monitoring.

What stage are construction companies at in the adoption of Contech solutions?

Very large organisations have already had methods and tools in place for a long time to tackle regulatory and environmental challenges and improve productivity, although they are often quite complex compared with Contech solutions. As those systems already exist, it can be difficult to replace them with SaaS solutions, incorporating AI for example. Small businesses are generally much less dependent on complex processes. Their managers and works supervisors find it easier to adopt innovative solutions. And they are particularly happy to do so since these solutions frequently require little or no investment, since they are based on as a service platforms, rental models, etc. Entrepreneurs are quick to understand the benefits of Contech. Of course, large companies are also likely to benefit from the Contech revolution, as they organise themselves to incorporate new, user-centric solutions, specific to Contech, into their existing tools.

Where is Contech experiencing the strongest growth?

Firstly, and very clearly, in the United States, followed by Israel and then in the Nordic countries. And it is because we would like France to take the place it deserves that we are championing Contech in Leonard’s startup programmes. France is among the leading countries per capita for the number of engineers trained in civil engineering and public works, and three of the ten largest companies in the world in the sector are French…

What are the takeaways from the 2021 Construction Startup Competition, of which Leonard was a partner?

Two things. Firstly, we are seeing the arrival of some very disruptive companies and not just projects to optimise what already exists. I am thinking, for example, of hyperTunnel, which offers a radically new solution for digging tunnels. Secondly, the number and quality of startups in the competition, which is unprecedented! We see CEO profiles with 20 years of experience getting involved in projects, which I see as proof that Contech is becoming one of the sectors attracting the most talent, because they are certain of having an impact.

The map below presents the best fast-growing startups that are advancing construction technologies, according to their field of innovation and the impact sought. It was derived from the results of the Construction Startup Competition 2021, the world’s largest competition for young construction companies – of which Leonard is a partner – as well as our Intrapreneurs, SEED and CATALYST acceleration programmes.

All aboard the Contech revolution!

This interview is from Leonard’s Yearbook “A Decisive Decade” 2021-2022. Discover it by following this link.

What do we do?

The VINCI Group created Leonard to tackle the challenges posed by the transformation of regions and lifestyles. Our goal is to unite a community of key stakeholders in order to build the city of the future together.