Professor John Connaughton: Connecting Industry and Academia
Professor John Connaughton worked in the construction sector for over 30 years: his move into academia was motivated by his belief that connecting industry with academia is important for resolving global sector issues.
Bringing industry and the University of Reading closer together
John is now a Professor of Sustainable Construction and Head of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading:
"I was motivated to move into academia because I felt I had something more to offer the sector by using my knowledge and skills in different ways. The first was to focus more on research - to understand better the big challenges our industry faces and how we can resolve them. And the second, through teaching, to help the next generation of construction leaders to be more effective and successful in their future careers.
"I also recognised the importance of striking the right balance in educating our students for the future. As well as providing an academically excellent core curriculum, it's great to be able to help them understand the latest developments, from a practical industry-focused perspective. And of course having strong connections with industry means that I can help our students develop their own unique career path so they can progress in whatever they choose to do.
Unlocking the creative potential
John has recently completed a research project helping to develop a unique insurance product that encourages innovation and creativity among design and construction teams:
"When I was working in industry I recognised the need for more collaborative processes - the best construction projects consist of teams who work well together and I want to harness this. This new insurance product insures everybody on the project as a whole team, thus developing more team-based ownership of responsibilities, allowing the team to share collectively in both the risk and the reward of what they produce. This collaboration unlocks the creative potential of the team and helps create the freedom required to be innovative."
"The University of Reading was the only academic partner in this research - we were involved from the very early stages and used an action research approach to work with the industry partners and the project client. It was very exciting seeing how the approach was adopted on a live project and I'm confident it will make a significant impact on how construction teams can work effectively together in the future."
Research that influences teaching
John's work on this new insurance product feeds directly into his teaching at Reading:
"Researchers get great satisfaction from developing new knowledge, and sharing an understanding about how we might improve the world we live in. This research has very much informed my teaching, both in terms of the challenges of introducing change and innovation in construction, as well as how we can improve effective collaboration and teamwork in construction. My lectures on procurement and construction management at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels draw on this work to give students a sense of how construction really works and how we can make it better for all involved - and my students really enjoy it!"