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2 March, 2022 - 12:51 By Tony Quested

Cambridge spin-out building into a global construction force

A Cambridge University spin-out has raised crucial seed capital to accelerate data-driven infrastructure and construction – one of the world economy’s largest sectors worth £7 trillion.

BKwai, a construction data company that helps engineers develop smarter, more sustainable built infrastructure, has received £2.2 million in a round led by Octopus Ventures with participation from Deeptech Labs and Cambridge Enterprise – the investment arm of the University. 

Global infrastructure in many countries is ageing and performing beyond its design life and intended capacity. The industry has 2-8 per cent profit margins and is going through a period of rapid digitisation in the UK alone. This has been given an initial push by government regulation such as the mandate for BIM Level 2 and accelerated by requirements imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The BKwai software platform combines data from multiple sources (on site sensors, environmental data and remote satellite data) giving a whole view of the asset, as well as its surrounding environment. 

The company deploys advanced data techniques to help engineers sift through huge volumes of data to find patterns, predict what is going to happen and identify early warning signs. 

The platform puts this insight into the site engineer’s hands quickly and in real time, enabling construction companies and asset owners to make more timely, more cost-effective and safer decisions.

Although only founded in 2019, BKwai is already deployed on construction sites by some of the biggest names in UK building and on existing major infrastructure assets. Customers include Thames Tideway, Laing O'Rourke, Kier, WSP and Highways England. 

BKwai founder, Sakthy Selvakumaran, has more than a decade of international experience in design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure assets and she combines this with a PhD and academic research in satellite monitoring and data analysis methods in the University of Cambridge Engineering Department. The company is also supported by Geovation, part of Ordnance Survey, UK.

The business is growing rapidly and is taking on investment to scale operations and build out its roadmap. 

Sakthy Selvakumaran said: “It is a really exciting time at BKwai. We are seeing increased demand and as such are expanding our offering to meet the industry’s needs.

“The proliferation of new sensors and satellite technology has the potential to fuel a revolution in the way the built environment can be monitored. Data can be used to make smarter, safer, more economical decisions across all aspects of the process - from planning to construction to operation and maintenance. 

“However, in an industry rooted in spreadsheets and manual interventions, it becomes impossible to sift through such volumes and find key insights and values. 

“One sensor or source of information does not fix all problems – the industry is crying out for better tools to help understand the complex challenges facing our built environment. That’s where we step in - we can give them the much needed data-driven engineering insights, to find the right solutions and take action.”

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