The future of proptech in the UK – MIPIM roadshow London report

What’s the future of proptech in the UK? At the MIPIM Proptech Europe roadshow, that’s the question on the agenda. We’re at WeWork Waterloo to hear views on that subject from a panel of proptech companies and Simon Allison from the London Mayor’s office. And as long as we’re in a co-working space, it’s worth highlighting one of the soundbites from the evening which is that London leads the world by a mile on co-working, at least in terms of penetration.

The general consensus is that proptech has come of age. Next year, 2020, will be the year of adoption. It’s only three years ago when bright start-ups couldn’t get a look-in with the corporate purse holders but today the tech agenda is so prominent among corporates, they have senior people whose remit is not to say no to pitches from those bright young things. And there are more proptech/tech insiders in corporates now – a new generation with a different outlook.

What’s next?

So what’s next in proptech in the UK?

Simon Allison, representing the Mayor of London, says the capital’s commitment to tech won’t change even if and when there is a change of Mayor. Energy efficiency is a huge driver for proptech, he reckons. It makes sense.

He sees take-up happening now among corporates buying into the technology that may deliver smart buildings. There have been early adopters, of course, but after a slow start, Simon says almost everyone of a certain size in London is in the proptech game now.

Crunch time

The crunch for SMEs is to make things easier for corporates. Provide core value, and your technology will be adopted. You need to think like corporates think, rather than barging in and predicting you’re going to change the world.

The panel see London, Hong Kong and Shanghai on a par when it comes to proptech adoption and market opportunities, but when it comes to proptech companies, one city is (gold-paved) streets ahead. London has more of them than the next two contenders, New York and San Francisco, combined.

So back to the future. Long term, cities are thinking less about winning big bids like The Olympics and more about adapting to climate and demographic change. And there is something about changing attitudes. Most of us think of real estate in terms of buying and selling property rather than experiencing it. Yet the new generation is focused on experiences. So how do we turn real estate into a service? How can proptech enable wellbeing, physical and mental?


Think of buildings as platforms with the human at the centre. Why? Well, what do you provide to your customers if not your people?

As with many disruptive ideas, there are philosophical questions. If your technology lets people manage their environment, to what extent should you trust them to make the right decision? If you truly have their and your best interests at heart, is there a case for you overruling their input at some point?

Much of the talk in HR and management is of soft issues such as wellbeing. But turn that around for a moment. If you focus on optimising rent per square foot – really optimising it taking into account all the factors – you’ll get increased productivity and wellbeing as a side effect.

Not perfect yet

Nothing is perfect, though, and an audience member highlights the lack of innovation in property and FM contracts, something that routinely confounds the successful deployment of technology. This can be because of archaic contracts with outsourced FM companies who have neither the interest nor the desire to take on a tech product. Similar stresses on in-house real estate managers, struggling to manage their day-to-day responsibilities, make it likely that new initiatives will not necessarily be greeted with unbridled enthusiasm.

It’s a huge problem, one of our speakers confesses. It’s why tech companies are struggling to get their products into thousands of buildings. No two buildings are the same, even ones in the same portfolio, so each potential instance of a tech roll-out meets different attitudes and challenges. It’s crucial with joint in-house/outsourced operations that both sides are incentivised to embrace new opportunities.

All that said, 2020 is a different year for the proptech world, one where its ideas and technologies are better able than ever to make it onto the top of the corporate agenda and beyond into deployment.





Seeing the Big Picture: Best Practice in Office Utilisation Episode One

In this first instalment of our new series on Best Practice in Office Utilisation, we highlight the importance of adopting a business-wide approach to unlock the new world of flexible working

If you work in a large corporation, the chances are your office real estate is your single biggest overhead after your staff. It’s also quite likely that you have one team responsible for your workforce and an entirely separate one for your building management. That is not ideal because, of course, people and places are closely intertwined. Corporations will never get the best out of their people nor make the most of their real estate assets if they don’t look at their organisations in the round. That is why when it comes to reviewing how you use your office real estate, the first step is to see the big picture. It’s number one on our list of best practice in office utilisation for a reason.

There are several reasons why a real estate review might come up. An organisation may be expanding and feel that it needs more space or vice versa. It might be opening in a new location or downsizing one. Perhaps someone has decided that the existing premises need a revamp, or gloomy economic predictions may have put real estate costs on the FD’s agenda. All of these are to a greater or lesser extent linked to the bottom line, and there is no getting away from the fact that Grade A offices are big ticket items. Our 2018 study ‘Wasted Space’ revealed that major organisations in the UK were collectively wasting £10 billion in under-utilised office real estate.

People first

Yet one of the biggest current drivers for corporations carrying out real estate reviews has less to do with money and everything to do with people. It is, of course, flexible working. The benefits of flexible, or agile, working have been the subject of thousands of column inches and broadcast hours in workplace and business media. More and more corporations seeing the potential to make space savings. Having worked with more than 100 organisations worldwide, we’ve seen that the scale of those savings can be quite astonishing: 30 per cent or even more is typical. As our report into the subject showed, those savings could be turned into monetary advantage.

However, many of our customers have done things differently and used the data we collect for them to reimagine their workspaces. That’s because the way we work is changing, and people want to work in places that are adapted to new ways of working. In order to recruit and retain the best people, corporations are realising they have to satisfy the demand of a new, agile generation of workers. We have seen customers switching to flexible working to move away from the one-person-one-desk-and-a-shared-meeting-room norm, giving room to introduce new breakout areas for informal team chats and even franchised coffee shops.

Mission critical

It seems fair to say that responding to the new world of work should be mission critical for any major corporation. After all, flexible or agile working are undoubtedly hot topics in business, and the related area of smart buildings is also hitting the headlines. These new approaches to office and people management offer bottom-line benefits in recruitment, retention, productivity and efficient use of space. Yet many organisations are failing to unlock the potential, and this is especially true for large, well-resourced corporations who stand to gain the most. Too often it seems that a big picture either isn’t in the frame or doesn’t have the drive from the top behind it to make it happen. We see it manifested in organisations failing to get to grips with flexible working or opting for low-cost real estate reviews that give unreliable data to managers with blinkered ideas. Why does this happen?

The challenge is that implementing this kind of cultural change takes a business-wide approach. Without it, corporations will fail to implement flexible working properly and will miss out on the advent of smart buildings.

That means senior management needs to champion a holistic approach to reorganising the workplace. It shouldn’t be just the preserve of the real estate or FM team. It needs to be communicated across the whole business. HR should be fully involved to help to create an improved environment. IT has a crucial role to play.

Driving change

So, management should be driving change. After all, the benefits are going to help you to deliver on corporate objectives, such as improved efficiency and better recruitment and retention. To make it happen will take more than delegating responsibility to a single team. We need to bring teams together on an enterprise-wide mission.

Advances in smart buildings add new emphasis to the need for a well-rounded approach to workplace design. We now have the technology, not only to enable flexible working but also to monitor and control the environment as never before, right down to the individual desk level. As smart buildings gain traction, it’s crucial that teams work together to reap the rewards, looking beyond energy savings and towards creating a better, more productive work environment, one that contributes to employees’ health and wellbeing.

By monitoring the office environment and how and when it is being used, we can create adaptable workplaces that address all users’ needs, from physical comfort and wellbeing to how the environment supports them to do their job effectively.


At Abintra, we are seeing an increasing number of enquiries from customers wanting to overhaul their working environments. That’s because employee wellbeing is rising up the corporate agenda.

Recruitment and retention are massive priorities for major corporations, and this is leading to more and more of them reviewing their working environments.

Unfortunately, many are making mistakes by failing to bring teams together to implement change. It’s also vitally important to involve the workforce in the process.

There is no doubt that corporations have space to play with. A recently-published Abintra report reveals that large office-based firms with 250 or more employees in England and Wales are together spending more than £10 billion on under-used Grade A office space.

Flexible working

Abintra pioneered workplace utilisation technology more than a decade ago and has since advised more than 100 corporations worldwide to monitor office usage and redesign workspaces. We know it can be done.

It all relates to organisations valuing their number one asset, their people, and leveraging their second biggest overhead, their workplace, to develop environments that address these key factors.

In London alone, the cost of office space being under-utilised is more than £4 billion annually, the report concludes, with large firms in other regions collectively squandering billions more.

Big employers with large office spaces are likely to benefit the most by addressing the issue and switching to flexible working strategies such as desk sharing. They can use Abintra’s workplace monitoring systems and our specialist consultancy expertise to typically find an extra 30 per cent or more of space.

However, we don’t expect the findings to stimulate a rush to smaller premises. Of course, it’s possible to take the data and decide to downsize and save money, but most businesses choose to use their newly-discovered space to enhance the workplace, for example by introducing new agile working areas, such as in-house coffee shops and informal meeting spaces. These have proven benefits for productivity as well as recruitment and retention, so being able to accommodate them without having to take on extra space is a huge advantage.

Real estate decisions

Clearly, information about the amount of space a business actually needs in a given location is critical for planning future real estate decisions. It can also be deployed by risk managers to ensure sufficient space is available to keep mission critical operations running if there is a disaster within a building or at another nearby company location.

The report reveals that large office-based firms with 250 or more employees in England and Wales are together spending £10,158 million on unnecessary total occupancy costs – that’s rent, rate and associated costs of running a workspace and related office functions.

What’s more, the issue is probably on an even bigger scale than the report’s conclusions, since our calculations are based on modest estimates of the amount of space saving possible and the number of people who work in offices.

Footnote: Businesses blow billions on wasted office space

Big businesses in England and Wales are squandering £10 billion a year by failing to get to grips with under-used office space, as our study shows.

The report ‘Wasted Space: The colossal cost of under-used office real estate’ draws together data from our work with more than 100 corporations worldwide with figures from government and the property industry to put hard numbers on the issue for the first time.

Download the report free

Introducing Surveys – the fast way to monitor your office space

How long will it take you to find out if you’re using your office space efficiently? Book one of our fast-track workplace surveys, and you’ll have all the answers at your fingertips in just four weeks.

Booking your four-week study is a great first step towards introducing flexible working, or making your existing office layouts even more agile.

Our experts will install the sensors and link them wirelessly to our award-winning software. We’ll help you to interpret the data, and we’ll advise on new workplace strategies in line with your corporate goals.

You’ll discover for the first time exactly how much desk space is going to waste and how often those over-booked meeting rooms are really being used. The results are often genuinely astonishing with typical potential space savings of 30 per cent or even more.

Knowing how your office real estate is actually used can translate into lower overheads, and it also gives you the option to create more agile working environments, which are valued by employees. So realigning your workspace can make a real contribution to recruitment and retention.

Abintra always involves your people from the outset in any space utilisation study so that they come along on the journey. It’s all about making better spaces that support you and your people to deliver your business objectives.

The starting point is knowing where you are now, and that’s where Abintra adds value. Unlike some alternative methods, our Wisenet system delivers ultra-accurate data that can be studied over any timeframe and filtered by any parameter of your choice. Most importantly, with Wisenet, you know you can rely on the results.

Join major corporations worldwide who trust Abintra’s industry-leading expertise for unrivalled insight into office real estate. Our pioneering WiseNet sensor technology sets the industry benchmark for utilisation and environmental monitoring.

To find out more, click here or to arrange an appointment, please use the Contact link below or call David Maddison in the UK on 07384 464284.

You’re just four weeks away from finding how you’re using your office real estate and how to adapt for the future.

Experienced business development professional joins

David Maddison

International workplace flexibility specialist Abintra has appointed experienced business development professional David Maddison as senior sales consultant EME.

In a career spanning more than three decades, David has worked in the airline, transport and IT sectors. He will be responsible for European and Middle East sales at Abintra, which works with major corporations worldwide to optimise use of their office space.

David said: “I was attracted by Abintra’s ethos, and I see many exciting opportunities with blue chip customers for its fantastic consultancy services and technology.”

He will be based at the London headquarters of Abintra, which also has offices in Boston, US.

Most recently, David was director of global merchandising at Guestlogix, the leading supplier of EPoS solutions to airline and rail companies. He was previously international sales manager at BAA Airport Express Alliance and prior to that, commercial director for Flight Directors, Gatwick.

Married with two grown up children, he lives in East Sussex and enjoys golf.