The Origins of COMIT
COMIT (Construction, Operations & Maintenance Innovation through Technology) began in August 2003 as a two-year research and development project. It was part-funded by the UK's Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) which has now been replaced by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).
The project was the idea of Sarah Bowden who at the time was an Engineering Doctorate student at Loughborough University. Sarah was being sponsored by Arup and they initially led the project along with BSRIA and Loughborough University.
In 2003 PC's were ubiquitous but the forerunners to "smartphones" were only just emerging. Devices such as PDA's (personal digital assistants) were increasingly being used in industry but not, as yet, in construction. The COMIT project hoped to help change that.
The aim of the project was to bring together technology and construction companies so that they could learn from each other and develop better ways of using mobile IT in construction. This was done by carrying out trials and case studies.
The Creation of a Community
The original DTI project was a great success. In the end almost forty organisations had come together to form a COMIT "community" - and community was very much the key word. From the beginning COMIT focused on creating a non-threatening cooperative environment that maximized the potential for technology and construction companies to learn from one another.
Historically, construction and technology had a chequered history. Contrary to popular belief, construction companies are generally innovative organisations and quick to adopt useful technologies. However, construction is hampered by a cyclical market and, being project-centric, a constant need to keep overheads low.
This did not fit well with early IT business models that focused on service and manufacturing style industry. Consequently it was all too easy for misunderstandings to occur and poor business decisions to be made. As a result there was a lot of misapprehension between the two industries.
However, by focusing on the practical and testing, demonstrating and communicating the benefits and issues involved, COMIT helped to bring the two parties together. So much so, that at the end of the the DTI project in 2005 there was almost unanimous agreement among the project members to continue as a subscription funded organisation.
COMIT Projects Ltd
COMIT continued as a self-funding organisation for a further six years, during which time it continued to grow in size and influence and to develop strong links with other like-minded organisations, both within the UK and abroad.
However, it became clear that in order to continue developing COMIT needed to have a legal identity that would allow it to enter into contracts with third parties. This was necessary in order to develop other revenue streams for the benefit of its members and to reduce the reliance on subscriptions.
In 2011 COMIT Projects Ltd was formed for this purpose. It was created by the core members of the community steering group and is now run by them for the benefit of the community. COMIT's community roots are still strong. In addition to the board of directors there is a Technology Chairman, a Construction Chairman and a Management Team, all of whom are drawn directly from the member organisations.
Sarah Bowden & colleague in the early days of COMIT
"The aim of of the project was to bring together technology and construction companies so that they could learn from each other and find better ways of using mobile IT"
Mobile technology boomed in the new millenium
Community days are at the heart of what COMIT does
The team from the COMIT community who formed COMIT Projects Ltd