A recent ENR survey of design firms, general contractors and subcontractors included two questions about technology. One asked what percentage of revenue the firms invest in research and development, and the other asked how the respondents feel about their data security. The responses suggest there might be a correlation.

Overall, of 208 executives who responded to the questions, 42% say they spend less than half a percent on R&D. Take the investment up to just under 1% and 14% more join the club. Add another half percent investment and the group expands another 10% before dropping back to a 6% increase in the next band. Only 10% of the respondents invest more than 2% of revenue in R&D, and almost 17% said they simply didn’t know what their company's R&D investment is.

Within that group of responders, however, it was the subcontractors who showed the deepest commitment to R&D, with almost 15% of the 87 responding saying that they invest more than 2% of revenue in research and development. Only 9% of the designers and 3.6% of the contractors reported similar levels of R&D investment. At the other end of the scale, 50% of the GCs said they were spending less than 0.5% of revenue on R&D. Designers in that level of spending came in at about 37% and subcontractors landed in the middle, at about 42%.

On the security question, which asked ‘How secure do you believe your data is from hackers?’, over the entire group 62% said they feel “somewhat secure”, while  22% said they feel “somewhat insecure.” At the extremes, 10% said they feel “very secure” and 4% said they feel “very insecure.” Less then 3% of the respondents said they didn’t know, suggesting that security concerns are very much on the radar.

Breaking down by discipline, though, the “somewhat” and “very insecure” responses came from 29% of the design firms, 30% of the GCs but only 21% of the subcontractors. Maybe the subcontractors are spending some of their R&D investment on security—and buying a little peace of mind.