“BlueScope’s public persona is evolving as people realize how much we are invested in innovation, and that’s thanks in part to our accelerator,” says Ryan Richardson.
Richardson, who supports innovation and sustainability initiatives at BlueScope Buildings North America (BBNA), is reflecting on the six-week Buildings of the Future global accelerator hosted by BBNA and BlueScopeX, the ventures arm of BlueScope Steel.
Taking place from May to June 2023, the accelerator fostered a unique mentoring, coaching, and collaboration environment for nine startups from around the world.
The goal was to find innovations — ranging from advanced AI and robotics, to smart and sustainable building solutions, to customer experience technologies — that could address some of the building sector’s biggest challenges, while also strengthening community engagement and creating a better world.
In particular, the accelerator sought solutions from outside the conventional building sector to help revolutionize traditional approaches to problem-solving.
“We connected startups with targeted areas of our organization,” says Richardson. “Rather than giving them a broader view of the business, participants got direct access to subject matter experts and industry professionals in areas where their solutions could practically be applied.”
”Participants got direct access to subject matter experts and industry professionals in areas where their solutions could practically be applied.
That deep focus resulted in pilots and collaborations with five of the nine startups in the program, which is just an outstanding outcome.
An accelerator formula that builds business
One of the secrets to the success of Buildings of the Future was getting to the heart of how applicants could leverage their solution in the building industry, says Dan Kumm, Senior Director, Business Insights at BBNA.
The accelerator team — which included program leads and coaches/mentors from a diverse array of backgrounds — provided participants with practical, real-world perspectives on how to position their specific business. As well as direct insight on how to work with an organization that has the expansive size and scope of BBNA.
“We challenged their business models and tried to help them really position what made them unique in ways that presented as differentiated,” says Kumm. “We really wanted to help get their solutions as market-ready and revenue-worthy as possible. This approach has now been proven to work, strengthening the industry as a collective, today and into the future.”
Meet the ‘Buildings of the Future’ pilot projects
Of the five companies BBNA is moving pilots forward with, one also walked away with the accelerator’s grand prize. BlueScopeX awarded the winner $100,000 USD, with no strings attached and no equity taken.
The winner, GigBridge, is a UK-based SaaS platform tackling one of the most challenging pain points affecting the global construction industry: finding skilled labor.
“What excites me so much about GigBridge is they’re addressing labor problems in a way that’s new for our industry — but not new to this type of issue,” says Richardson. “The model is immediately appealing given its successful application in other industries.”
Pilots and similar engagements are also commencing with four other companies:
- Sitedata – a workplace safety company that uses artificial intelligence and computer visioning to classify, detect, and track safety incidents, and generate safety reports to drive behavioral and cultural change.
- Deep.meta – an AI-powered digital twin that predicts defects in steel production to reduce waste in manufacturing lines (which can run up to 25% of the 1.8 billion tons of steel produced annually).
- Matrak – a supply chain-focused startup that offers an end-to-end SaaS platform that enables tracking and visibility of materials from procurement through to fabrication, and out to distribution and delivery.
- Solar Steel – a company that designs and supplies solar trackers and fixed structures for the photovoltaic energy sector.
Cross-industry solutions drive innovation further
For BBNA and BlueScopeX, the Buildings of the Future accelerator is just a starting point.
“We fully expect that some of the other companies we met in the accelerator — who offer up solutions from a variety of different industry backgrounds — will eventually become collaborators, partners, or vendors,” says Richardson. “Not only that, but we also intend to follow the progress of some of the companies that didn’t make the accelerator this time around.”
The focus on searching for — and investing in — sources both within and external to the building industry is integral to accessing non-conventional solutions that can address the big challenges affecting construction today, Kumm says.
“For the building industry to evolve and truly transform, it is mission-critical to expand our mindset and seek innovative technologies and processes — from wherever they are being developed — that empower a more sustainable, efficient future for us all,” he concludes.