Tracking the UK Contech Market | 2022
Farzana Haque, 08 December 2022
Contech (construction technology) has arrived to revolutionise the traditional construction industry. Indeed, construction companies already recognise the benefits of this emerging market, with several large acquisitions of contech startups taking place in recent years, such as American construction heavyweight Trimble buying Viewpoint in 2018, for $1.20b.
Here in the UK, the construction sector provides an excellent opportunity for innovative technologies to support the transition to net zero. The UK Government has pledged to move towards cleaner growth measures, such as halving the energy use of new buildings by 2030. Its 2019 Construction Sector Deal paper outlines key policies, such as a commitment to invest £725m into programmes that capture the value of innovation. This sets the perfect stage for contech startups to grow in the UK.
In this piece, we explore the UK construction technology sector in detail and profile 10 top high-growth contech companies, based on the amount of equity investment they’ve raised to date.
What is contech?
Contech refers to the use of innovative technologies in construction, often in the early stages, ranging from design to building materials and civil engineering.
Is contech the same as proptech?
Proptech (property technology) focuses on property sales and post-construction matters, such as maintenance. Whilst there are certainly overlaps between the two, contech is a separate industry of its own. A notable difference between contech and proptech is the addressable market for the respective sectors: contech addresses multiple asset classes, including infrastructure, industrial, commercial and residential, while proptech only applies to commercial and residential.
Uses of construction technology
There’s a diverse range of technologies emerging within contech. For example, in communications, software and mobile apps are being developed to collect, store and share documents for construction projects. There are also wearable technologies that can improve workplace safety, such as smart watches which detect slips, trips and falls and automatically contact help in an emergency.
Another technology widely employed by contech companies is predictive analytics, which uses historical data to identify and mitigate risks. Meanwhile, contech also refers to 3D printing and immersive technologies, like augmented and virtual reality, in modelling sites. Extended reality technology offers a range of solutions, bringing designs to life to help visualise blueprints.
Trends in the UK’s contech sector
There are 46 high-growth contech companies in the UK, employing around 2k people. A large proportion (44%) are currently operating at the seed stage of evolution. This is similar to other startup sectors, such as fintech, where 43% of high-growth companies are in the seed stage: startups in their early days, operating with a low employee count and little to no equity investment. In contrast, just 15% of contech businesses are operating at the established stage.
In line with traditional construction, contech seems to be a very male-dominated sector, with 95% of contech company founders identifying as men, where gender is known, and 90% of companies having all-male founding teams. This is significantly worse than the UK’s wider high-growth ecosystem of 45k+ companies, in which 75% have all-male founding teams.
The breakdown for the companies in this article is slightly better, but still leaves considerable room for improvement, with 63% being founded by all-male teams. As the sector continues to gain momentum and investor interest, we hope to see more female entrepreneurs emerging in this space in the coming years.
Top 10 contech companies in the UK
Of the 46 high-growth contech startups headquartered in the UK, we’ve profiled the top 10, ranked in order of equity investment secured. Read on to find out how they’re making use of innovative technologies in construction.
Funds raised: £26.9m
XYZ Reality leverages augmented reality and virtual reality technology for construction projects. To do this, XYZ Reality has created a helmet (The Atom) that combines construction safety and augmented reality displays to provide 3D models to a millimetre accuracy on-site. To supplement this, XYZ Reality has also created HoloSite, the world’s first Engineering-Grade Augmented Reality platform, which integrates to The Atom via the cloud. Use cases include issue management through visualisation and working together remotely via The Atom in real-time with on-site users.
XYZ Reality has raised £26.9m in equity investment since its founding in 2017, across five funding rounds. Octopus Ventures, Hoxton Ventures, Amadeus Capital Partners and ActivumSG are among its many investors. The London tech startup has also received four Innovate UK funding grants so far, totalling £1.48m.
Funds raised: £16.2m
nPlan develops predictive analytics software for the construction industry. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, it forecasts project outcomes, helping construction companies to anticipate delays and improve delivery outcomes. This construction tech will enable companies to level up their risk management at every stage of the project life cycle, from the bid to the execution. Among nPlan’s big name clients are Google, Network Rail and Shell.
Founded in 2017 and based in London, nPlan has raised £16.2m of equity investment so far, across three fundraisings. Its latest round took place in March 2021, and saw the company raise £13.4m from investors including GV (Google Ventures), LocalGlobe and Pentech Ventures. The company has also received five innovation grants, worth £902k, and attended numerous accelerator programmes, including Entrepreneur First.
Funds raised: £4.42m
C-Link develops a web app where construction companies can find subcontractors, manage supply chains, create automated tender documents and compare prices. Its platform also has a messaging feature which allows companies to communicate with subcontractors. C-Link aims to improve profitability for the construction industry, by reducing commercial admin time with its innovative technology.
Founded by Christopher Barber and Paul Heming in 2015, C-Link has raised £4.42m of equity investment, across four fundraisings. Its latest stealth round was completed in July 2022, and saw the startup raise £96.8k from undisclosed investors. Its only known investor to date is not-for-profit tech fund NorthInvest.
Funds raised: £4.25m
Continuum Industries develops software that uses artificial intelligence to provide infrastructure solutions. Its product is aimed at supporting developers, allowing for early-stage project scoping and bid preparation, and simplifying communications with stakeholders.
Based in Edinburgh and founded in 2018, Continuum Industries has attended two accelerator programmes so far: CDL-Oxford and Applied AI. The Scottish tech startup has also raised £4.25m in equity fundraisings across three rounds (with the latest of these taking place in March 2022). Initial investment for the startup came from angel investor Gareth Williams, co-founder of Skyscanner. Other investors include Playfair Capital, Techstart Ventures and Credo Ventures.
Funds raised: £3.14m
BKwai produces predictive analytics and visualisations software for the construction industry. The University of Cambridge spinout provides users with an analytics platform that takes multi-sourced data and transforms it into engineering intelligence. The innovative construction tech can solve a range of problems, such as predicting how a bridge will move and identifying subsidence causes.
Founded in 2019 and now based in London, the startup has raised £3.14m in equity investment, across four fundraisings. It has also received more than £300k in innovation grants. Notable investors include Octopus Ventures, Triple Point Ventures, and University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund. BKwai has also participated in four accelerator programmes: Entrepreneur First, Geovation GeoTech Programme, Applied AI and Deeptech Labs.
Low Carbon Materials
Funds raised: £2.06m
This eco-friendly startup aims to make construction sites more sustainable. Low Carbon Materials is helping the construction sector build a net zero world using carbon-negative and carbon-zero materials. It works with partners such as Durham University to develop innovative solutions in the construction industry, specialising in aggregate-based materials for concrete. In its latest news, the greentech company has been named a finalist in The Earthshot Prize 2022.
Founded in 2019 and based in Durham, Low Carbon Materials has raised £2.06m of equity investment so far, across two fundraisings. In its latest funding round, it secured £1.90m from North East Innovation Fund, angel network Green Angel Syndicate, and individual angels to support the launch of its carbon-negative concrete aggregate. The fast-growing contech startup has also been awarded £168k of innovation funding across two grants.
Green Life Buildings
Funds raised: £1.88m
Green Life Buildings creates sustainable, modern construction methods. Its flagship product, structural insulated panels (SIP), is more sustainable and cost-effective than conventional polystyrene and fine concrete. The Northamptonshire-based contech startup estimates that its product saves over 65% of user energy requirements compared to a traditional home.
Founded in 2018, Green Life Buildings has raised £1.88m, across three equity funding rounds, most recently in April 2022. Its mission is to help the construction industry to move towards a zero-carbon sector by providing energy-efficient building materials at the early stages of the construction process.
Funds raised: £1.42m
SymTerra develops an online platform and mobile app that connects construction industry stakeholders. The contech startup provides real-time project updates and helps with evidencing and record keeping on construction projects. It contributes to the BIM (building information modelling) pipeline from job sites by allowing clients, contractors and subcontractors to document work progress on the ground and share it with whoever they need to. Its most notable clients include Transport for London and the University of Cambridge.
SymTerra was co-founded by John Ryan and Sarah Crawley in 2008. Since then, it’s raised £1.42m in a single equity funding round in July 2022. The startup’s investors include Accel, Samaipata Ventures, Nemetschek Group and Pi Labs. In March 2022, SymTerra also attended the Pi Labs accelerator programme for innovative proptech companies.
Funds raised: £1.34m
MyNestBox provides property data software aimed at solicitors and developers, to assess the suitability of a property or construction site. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider simplifies the early-stage search process by creating one easy-to-review report, replacing the numerous individual documents that conventional searches give. Featured data sources in a MyNestBox report include the Office for National Statistics, the Department of Transport, the Environmental Agency and the British Geological Survey.
Founded in 2020 and based in Somerset, the contech company has raised £1.34m of equity investment already, across two unannounced fundraisings (in January and November 2022). The seed-stage startup was also awarded an Innovate UK grant, worth £98.4k, back in November 2020.
Location: West Sussex
Funds raised: £1.17m
Chichester-based 4energy Group’s mission is to optimise energy efficiency. The sustainable startup believes that the journey to net zero within the construction industry starts with reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions. To achieve this, 4energy Group provides analytics software and a cloud-based management system, plus optimisation of buildings via energy efficiency installations.
Since 2021, 4energy Group’s work has saved 1.78m kg of CO2 emissions, with clients including the Victoria and Albert Museum. The startup has raised £1.17m in equity fundraising, in one round, in July 2021. This was one of the 70% of all equity deals in the UK that are never announced to the public.
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