xbim, a leading Newcastle based tech business, has secured £500,000 from the North East Innovation Fund. A fund supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and managed by Northstar Ventures.
Founded in 2016, the origins of xbim stretch back more than a decade. Director, Steve Lockley, began the development of the company’s leading product xbim Toolkit in 2012 during a career break after leaving NBS.
When asked about his reasoning for the initial development of Toolkit Steve had this to say, “I had spent over 25 years researching how buildings could be modeled so that computers could play a role in helping designers make better decisions and reduce building failures. With the arrival of the first accepted International standard for building information modeling (BIM) there was an opportunity to open BIM up to new and innovative software developers. It was clear though that there were no easy to use “Open” software tools to make this a reality. This was the goal of the xBIM project and the toolkit that came out of it.”
It wasn’t long before Steve got the urge to return to academia, taking a role as Professor of Building Modelling at Northumbria University in 2014. Having created the xbim Toolkit, Steve began working with a number of commercial companies looking to develop BIM functionality. One such project was with Andy Ward whom, at that time, was CTO and co-founder of the construction collaboration service 4Projects. The two worked together on the first web based implementation of xbim Toolkit, making it an open-source project in the process. This led to a series of investments in the Toolkit from NBS, BESA, Viewpoint and InnovateUK.
The final founding Director at xbim, Martin Cerny was in academia with Steve,
working as a Researcher at the time. Martin, a major contributor to the xbim
Toolkit expert member of CEN TC442 WG2 and the Czech BIM Standards Agency.
The three came together in 2017 and founded xbim Ltd.
The xbim Toolkit is the leading Open Source, OpenBIM software library, and provides
a framework for developers to create their own BIM solutions for private and commercial purposes. Used by thousands of developers around the world, Toolkit is tried and tested on many commercial projects including Hinkley Point C in Somerset.
After initially taking on a seed investment from local tech entrepreneur and Angel
investor Dan Smyth in April 2019, the team have developed the Toolkit offering and in working with partners over this time have recognised a need for a standard Platform solution for OpenBIM. The team have developed Flex, the only enterprise level, OpenBIM cloud platform. Flex allows commercial clients to integrate BIM technologies with new and existing software solutions, realising the benefits of digital building data in a highly scalable and cost-effective way while meeting complex data governance requirements. The £500,000 funding from the North East Innovation Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and managed by Northstar Ventures will be used for the next exciting stages of development for xbim. Northstar Ventures have a strong tech focus, a key target market is ‘the future of place’ where the technologies being developed by the team at xbim, including Digital Twins and carbon costing capabilities firmly align.
Rick Charnley, Investment Director at Northstar Ventures, said, “We’ve been impressed with the expertise, experience and vision of the xbim team and their achievements to date. We’re delighted to be able to support them in their next
phase of democratising how data is used and managed in the building sector, and
look forward to seeing the scaling up further of their innovative solutions.”
With the foundations of a global BIM platform in place the team now need to focus on growing the number of partners using the platform. With this comes the need to improve the process of onboarding new partners and developers to the platform, providing guides, automation and information to support a growing audience on a global scale. Further enhancing the capability of Flex is also top of the agenda. Already in development is workflow and automated carbon assessment functionality. Hotly anticipated – these developments require a growing team to support partners in their use whilst continuing to develop new functionality for the platform.
The ever growing, open-source community for Toolkit also requires attention with the team at xbim looking to leverage the evangelist qualities of core project users
to better understand the community, its demands and where they want to see the
project go next.
Andy Ward, CEO at xbim said “We’re thrilled with this latest investment and we’re
busy implementing strategies focused on scaling our Flex platform, attracting
new partners for the platform at a rapid rate and increasing our developer
numbers to ensure we’re delivering what’s need to provide a first rate global
PaaS solution for the built environment”