> ConTech in 3 time layers: pre-Covid, during the pandemic, and what is ahead of us in the near future

> Future prospects for ConTech solutions that has only a software core, and the ones with a physical product

> Carboncapture ConTechs

We talked with Dr Dimitar Dimov, Founder Concrene Ltd, the UK, and Boris Goldshteyn, Co-Founder and CEO Visoplan GmBH, Germany

The interview is completed by Sylvia Pavlova MBA CMC, Founder PropTech Bulgaria, Co-Founder PrEXCELerator Bulgaria.

This interview was part of the Bulgarian PropTech Business Show on RE:Connect 3.0 on 24 June 2021. Bulgaria was represented by PropTech Bulgaria at RE:Connect 3.0 – one of the largest PropTech events worldwide. This is the 1st part of our conversation. You can see the other 2 here >

see part 2
see part 3

About Dr Dimitar Dimov:

Dr Dimitar Dimov read BEng Civil Engineering followed by a PhD in Nanoscience Engineering at the Univeristy of Exeter, United Kingdom. In 2018 he founded Concrene Limited together with the University and an angel investor.

Dr Dimov was recognised as Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2019 for his innovative discovery and for founding Concrene Limited. He also has an extensive construction commercial experience, mainly focusing Modern Methods for Construction, sustainable procurement delivery models, construction cost management and advanced analytics.

Concrene Limited is a UK based nanotechnology company that develops a breakthrough solution for the concrete industry.

We apply cutting edge nanoscience to improve the strength of concrete and reduce its carbon footprint.

Concrene Limited licenses its nanotechnology, protected by patent-pending application, to precast concrete manufacturers globally. We supply the graphene product, manufactured by Thomas Swan, and the process to our industry partners to make their products greener.

The Concrene nanotechnology is versatile and compatible with a wide range of concrete mixes, including CEM I-IV, GGBS, fly ash, basalt fibres, plasticisers and more. Concrene precast products benefit from increased durability, water resistance and lower carbon footprint due to low cement content.

About Boris Goldshteyn:

As managing director and founder of Visoplan, Boris Goldshteyn has been dealing with the digitization of the construction and real estate industry for many years. With his knowledge in the field of IT & management, he supervised construction projects in the DACH region during the digital transformation. His expertise extends above all in the early phases of the real estate life cycle, in the implementation and further development of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and the use of virtual technologies such as VR, AR & XR.

Visoplan GmBH is a SaaS company based in Berlin, which has set itself the goal of advancing digitization in the construction industry and making work with Building Information Modeling (BIM) easier by seamlessly integrating a new developed software solution into the everyday work of those involved into construction projects. The software is a Common Data Environment (CDE) platform, which is used as a central collaboration hub for construction projects, making the work & data exchange easier for property developers, architects & engineers.

1.   What’s the difference in the situation pre-Covid, during the pandemic, and now?

Dimitar Dimov [DD]:

Covid was a real wake-up call for the Construction industry, in my view, because everyone was talking about change, digitizing the industry, about moving to the next advancement, but no one was actually taking action. Now that the Covid hit, people suddenly were under lockdown, and they had to embrace and use technology in order to literally survive their business. And I think they finally came to the point where they not only talk, but actually adapt to all the beautiful digital solutions which are out there. My view is that there are a lot of smart both digital, and practical solutions in the industry, but they just hadn’t been picked up. In another point which I’d like to make around – the post-Covid trend – is the fact that the construction industry definitely started shifting away from the overreliance on labour. So, the traditional construction is heavily reliant on labour to do everything on site. No things work much more towards how to manufacture instead of build; how can we build houses in a manufacturing environment?

How to use modern methods of construction because of all the advantages it has in terms of having skilled labour, having a closed environment, so we are not reliant on external weather. You have a lot more confidence in the supply chain, etc.

So, I think that the pandemic was ‘good’ for the Construction, because it just has accelerated that change which was much needed.

Boris Goldshteyn [BG]:

Of course accelerating change, but not for everybody, I’d say. I think it was a little bit consolidated, so we had so many different solutions, the ideas were really broadened, and there were digital solutions which were like pre-product, and after-product. So, there were solutions which already had a big network that was already working, and on the other side, there were completely novel solutions with a new product. And I would say that due to the pandemic, the smaller solutions which didn’t have a big network, didn’t have a proven product-market fit, for them it was really hard. For the former group of digital solutions, the situation accelerated them, just as Dimitar said.

2.   How things are currently going on for each of you? Boris is in the purely software part, Dimitar has also a hardware core of the product. How things are developing at the moment?

DD: Mine is short and sweet, actually. We are in a good shape because the [UK] government plan for economic recovery is heavily reliant on infrastructure. So, usually the government is going out of an economic crisis by building and investing in construction and infrastructure. That’s really welcome because we are working in the pre-cast concrete space, and there is huge demand for pre-cast concrete. Anything you can think of: from small pavers to big concrete blocks for roads’ bridges. I am happy to say that the industry is booming and we need to ride the wave, if I use this term.

BG: The industry is growing. It was growing before the pandemic, and Covid didn’t have any impact on the growth trend. I would say, as we look at the last months there are cost increase in materials (wood, concrete, steel). This could have an impact over the next months, depending on how the cost develops further because as I said, several months ago construction site activities were on halt as a result of the materials costs. As far as our solution is concerned, I’d say it’s half way, split in two different parts. The first two quarters (Q2 and Q3 2020) it was very hard because when there is a kind of insecurity on the market, the big construction companies, the big developers cut the innovation budget. They focus on their main core business, and for you, Dimitar, you have a concrete solution and it appeals to the core business, so there’s not a problem. But when we talk about an innovative software solution, which is not that concrete [physically], and cannot really touch is as a hardware, it is more difficult to get into new projects. Following the winter period, talking about the last 2 quarters [Q1 & Q2 2021], situation is changing because now developers know how the industry will develop, their core business is more than safe, they know that this is the end of the pandemic, and they understand which the key issues were. The key issues are digitization, automatization, and now they start to look for new software solutions again. They search deeper as they now understand actually, where the bottlenecks are, where processes are not running well. Now we get a better response to our software than if was one year ago.

3.  What post-Covid-19 trends are there to be traced down in your market segment (or in the industry as a whole, alternatively, in the society to have a direct say on your segment)? 

DD: I strongly believe that the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the construction amplified one of the industry’s main long-term problems – reliance on on-site labour due to traditional procurement routes. The unavailability of labour due to social distancing rules on-site, general health-related problems, labour migration due sub-contractors’ redundancies all led to the same problem – projects going over budget and delays in programme. Therefore, many clients and decision makers

started to turn their attention to modern methods of construction and products manufactured offsite in order to de-risk their dependency on labour. We work in the precast concrete space and can definitely see an increased demand for precast concrete products, designed and ordered well in advance and clients requesting high standard of execution and delivery. C-19 had a “positive” impact on construction because it acted as a catalyst for the very conservative stakeholders to switfly embrace change.

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