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Digital transformation in construction projects – The project manager’s role, responsibilities and competences


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Friday 29 May 2020
Project start date
Thursday 1 October 2020
Country eligibility
UK and EU
Competition funded
Source of funding
Research council
Additional supervisors
Dr Christine Unterhitzenberger (1st); Dr Tristano Saint (2nd)
School of Civil Engineering
Research groups/institutes
Cities and Infrastructure
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Even in 2020 the construction industry is one of the world&rsquo;s least digitalised, despite potential productivity gains and cost reductions. The reasons for this are manifold, but some characteristics make it particularly challenging for this industry to introduce digital technologies. These are fragmentation, lack of replication, transience and decentralization. Whilst individual construction companies are starting to digitize their operations there is still a long way to go for the digital transformation of construction projects. Such projects typically involve a number of different companies ranging from contractors to architects and engineers to consultants with each of them having their own and unique digital infrastructure. To achieve a higher degree of digitalisation in construction projects &ndash; and therefore productivity gains and cost reductions &ndash; digital technologies need to be integrated across multiple companies and the way by which communication, collaboration and contracting takes place needs to be re-considered. This systemic shift requires the construction sector to develop specific competencies on digital technologies, as well as the willingness to embrace such a transformation. Whilst initiatives by the UK Government such as the commitment to the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) across all government funded construction projects are invaluable drivers towards digital transformation, they are not sufficient. The proposed PhD study intends to focus on digital transformation on the project level and how the project manager can facilitate it. Currently, we don&rsquo;t know how the project manager can contribute to this transformation. It is also unclear what the project manager&rsquo;s responsibilities in are this area: is s/he responsible to promote and drive the implementation and integration of digital technologies in construction projects or is s/he only responsible for delivering the client&rsquo;s objectives? Depending on the project manager&rsquo;s roles and responsibilities in this process we also need to look at the competences required by the project manager to face this changing project environment. Recent studies suggest that organisations put a strong emphasis on the development of technical and leadership skills for project managers, but less so on digital skills with the construction industry even being below average. Overall, we need to develop an understanding of what project managers can and should do to facilitate the digital transformation of construction projects and which competences they require to successfully do so. The PhD applicant can refine the focus of this study, as long as the focus is on digital transformation of construction projects and the project.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>Below we outline some potential objectives which could be addressed by the PhD research. These objectives are not meant to be prescriptive, but should inspire the PhD applicant to develop their own objectives in line with the focus of this research opportunity:</p> <ul> <li>Identify the main barriers and enablers for a smooth transition of construction projects towards digitalisation</li> <li>Determine the roles of project managers in the digital transformation of construction projects</li> <li>Categorise the competencies required by the project manager, and its team, to enhance the digital transformation of construction projects</li> <li>Map the state of the art of digital competencies in the construction sector in the UK</li> <li>Compare the degree of digitalisation of the construction sector in the UK with other relevant countries or industries</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is &ldquo;Digital Transformation in Construction Projects&nbsp;as well as&nbsp;<a href="">Dr Christine Unterhitzenberger</a> as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>We welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p><strong>UK/EU</strong> Engineering &amp; Physical Sciences Research Council Studentship&nbsp;for 3.5 years. A full standard studentship consists of academic fees (&pound;4,600 in Session 2020/21), together with a maintenance grant (&pound;15,285&nbsp;in Session 2020/21) paid at standard Research Council rates. UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance. Applicants successful in obtaining a DTP Civil Engineering studentship will automatically be considered for the supplementary Civil Engineering Alumni Bursary (value &pound;3000 p.a. for 3.5 years). European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information please contact Doctoral College Admissions:<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 5057.</p> <p>For further information regarding the project, please contact Dr Christine Unterhitzenberger by email:&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked funding opportunities</h3>
<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>