Construction Management and the Environment - CME students looking up at construction site

Fast facts

Project information

  • Project aim: to source, select and embed sustainable technologies into the Wates Group's bid propositions and to ultimately accelerate the implementation of these technologies on Wates and customer sites to support the delivery of low carbon buildings 
  • Project duration: 24 months
  • Project budget: £146,701
  • KTP funder: Innovate UK
  • Academic team: Professor Steve Goodhew, School of Architecture, Design and Environment and Professor Shaofeng Liu, Plymouth Graduate School of Management and Plymouth Business School
  • Associate: Dr Zainab Dangana
  • Degree studied: PhD Construction Management

This initiative enables the Wates Group and its customers to accelerate the uptake of innovative sustainable solutions to delivering low carbon buildings. As a result, Wates is a pragmatic leader in this field and an innovation broker within the construction industry. This provides tangible benefits for the business, our customers and new suppliers and I'm really excited about the benefits that this project will continue to bring.

Dr Zainab Dangana, Sustainability Research and Development Manager, Wates Smartspace


Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) is a nationwide programme that has been helping businesses succeed for the past 40 years by connecting them to the UK’s extensive pool of world-leading experts. Part-funded by government, it is a partnership between a business seeking expertise, an academic institution (such as the University) and a recently qualified graduate – known as an Associate. 
Dr Zainab Dangana, with a PhD in Construction Management from Plymouth, is using the findings of her research to implement sustainable technologies to support the delivery of low carbon buildings across the UK. 
In her role as Sustainability Research and Development Manager for Wates Smartspace, part of the Wates Group, Zainab works with colleagues and customers to facilitate the selection of innovative solutions by organising 'Green Dragons' Den' style competitions.
The selection involves a three stage screening process in which technologies are measured against robust suitability criteria. Finalists are then given the opportunity to showcase and pitch their innovative technology to a judging panel made up of key decision-makers from Wates Smartspace and representatives from its market-leading customers. 
Wates Smartspace hosted its first customer event in 2016, inviting four of its customers to join the judging panel. Six suppliers were given the opportunity to pitch and each customer is now in discussion with those suppliers that best met their unique sustainability challenges. Opportunities to trial these technologies on client sites are now being explored.
This initiative has had a positive impact on the ability of suppliers to accelerate their route to market. In addition Wates customers have benefitted from being able to identify innovative, market-ready, low carbon sustainable products or technologies that can offer direct efficiency benefits across their building portfolios. 
No other contractor has a structured and targeted framework in place to support such an initiative. As a result, in October 2016, Wates was awarded the London Build Excellence Award at the London Construction Awards. This recognises the outstanding contribution that Wates has made to the construction industry in seeking to lessen the impact of their buildings on the environment. 

We have found Wates to be genuinely and proactively interested in supporting innovation in the construction sector, as evidenced by the programme initiated and managed by Dr Dangana. The programme has real environmental benefits and, through our participation, we have been introduced to some meaningful opportunities which Zainab is helping us to develop further. We would encourage other suppliers to participate in future competitions.

Feedback from Paul Groves, Business Development Manager, Spiralite, a key supplier

Real congratulations and thanks has to go to Zainab Dangana who has really driven this project over the last three years. Thank you also to the University, Innovate UK and Wates Giving for all their support. This is a really exciting opportunity for us, as we see uptake now from customers and suppliers for the service we are offering. This allows us to truly say that Wates Smartspace is an innovative partner to its customers. Well done again, I am delighted for Zainab and the team.

Helen Bunch, Managing Director, Wates Smartspace
Wates Smartspace picked up the London Build Excellence Award at the London Construction Awards 2016 in recognition of their 'Green 'Dragons' Den' style innovation events.

Plymouth's first postdoctoral KTP

A recently qualified PhD researcher is building her dreams into reality with a national construction company after becoming the University’s first post-doctoral graduate to benefit from a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) under the government-led business innovation initiative.
Dr Zainab Dangana, who has achieved a distinction in construction management from Plymouth, and has a decade of experience as an architect in the construction industry in America, India, Nigeria and the UK, is now using the findings of her research from her recently completed PhD, to implement sustainable technologies to deliver low carbon buildings.
Dr Zainab Dangana
After completing her PhD with the support of the £1bn turnover business, Wates Group, who contract for the Government and public sectors, education, commercial and residential, Zainab is delighted to be offered the chance to continue working with the group where she will take her research to the next step. 
Part-funded by the Government, a KTP involves the formation of a partnership between a company, an academic institution and a recently qualified graduate, facilitating the transfer of knowledge to embed new capability within an organisation. The partnership has received £146,701 to fund this two-year project – ‘Sourcing innovative sustainable technologies to deliver low carbon buildings’ – with Wates.
Zainab will continue to receive academic support from Professor Steve Goodhew from the School of Architecture, Design and Environment and Professor Shaofeng Liu from Plymouth Graduate School of Management as well as Mandy Bowden, Specialist Advisor on KTPs at the University.

Wates are one of the leaders in their field and I’ll be working alongside the teams in their Smartspace business to help achieve targets set by the Government to reduce carbon emissions in non-domestic buildings. This will realise tangible results for Wates and our clients. In the past as an architect I have had limited opportunity to make an impact. but with the MSc and PhD from Plymouth, I hope to be able to make a difference on the society we live in.

Dr Zainab Dangana

We welcome extending our partnership with the University through this KTP. This is an important project that will provide our customers with value adding technologies whilst differentiating us from our competition and supporting our core values to improve the communities and environment in which we work.

Steve Spilsbury, Business Director, Wates Smartspace