Skip to content

Business & Economy

Five minutes with…

Bola Abisogun has joined Newcastle-based digital construction operator BIM Academy as digital director. With a strong background in the sector, and a longstanding commitment to boosting diversity and inclusivity, he has joined a team of strategists, researchers and innovators who are aiming to meet the global challenges in digital asset information management. Here, he chats to Colin Young about what he hopes to bring to the role.


Welcome to the North East, Bola. Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am an extremely passionate professional within the construction industry, and my biggest inspiration is my mother Alhaja Sidikatu Abisogun, who has taught me to always serve others and observe patience in all that I do.

From a very young age, I was – and remain – a fan of LEGO, amassing one of the largest collections on Hackney’s Kingsmead Estate, where I was raised as a child.

I have always been interested in technology, and I absolutely love cars.

Having qualified as a Chartered surveyor in 1999, I was inspired in 2005 to become founder and chairman of DiverseCity Surveyors (DCS), a highly successful peer-to-peer network offering excellence and thought leadership from across the global, non-traditional talent pool.

The achievement with DCS, and my wider contribution to the profession, paved the way for me to become a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in 2014.


You have made significant contributions throughout your career to diversity and inclusion, for which you were awarded an OBE in 2019. What more can you tell us about your work in this area?

My commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion was not curated by choice or design, more as a result of my lived experience in the construction sector and specifically the surveying profession.

My activity and achievements have come on the back of my relationship with the construction industry, but despite all I have gained, I still haven’t achieved my goals or end-game, and often describe myself as being a 4.5/10, in terms of realising my full potential.

That may appear a little harsh, but I know what is possible, and it is a large part of why I have been – and remain – committed to the diversity and inclusion conversation.

My drive is reflective of my knowledge in that.

When it comes down to it, most people just want the chance to improve themselves.

The creation of access to opportunity has become part of my DNA, and I suppose my passion is directly correlated to my lived experience and co-existence as a black professional in essentially what is still very much a white, male-dominated industry.

You began championing the benefits of building information modelling (BIM) in the construction industry 25 years ago. Do you feel there has been enough progress on BIM understanding and uptake during this time? What is still required to make construction truly digital?

I wrote my first ‘process level’ digital twin, using BIM-enabled workflows, that deployed neural networks and hyperlinked expert systems, as part of my thesis in 1994.

Twenty two years, and with an overarching intention to deploy digital twins into ‘regulated professional services’ citing cultural change, I was invited – in October 2020 – to sit on the Gemini Council at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB), and remain a co-author of both the Gemini Papers and the Digital Twin toolkit.

For those that may not know what a digital twin is, in construction terms, it is a virtual replica of a physical building, allowing us to see what it will look like before it is created.

The entire conversation about BIM has been largely misunderstood and essentially devalued, due to a lack of evidence-based ‘value creation’.

Understanding what BIM can offer is essential. It is a process that introduces digital ways of working to modernise traditional construction methods.

I want to help change the focus of the construction industry, so more businesses adopt BIM and work with advanced technology to improve productivity.


You have joined BIM Academy to establish strong business links with UK and international clients. What are you planning to bring to the organisation?

As digital director, I have two key responsibilities.

The first is to bring to life my entire body of work following my 32-month sabbatical at CDBB, where I worked with some of the greatest minds across the UK (and in some cases, across the world) to deliver the National Digital Twin Programme.

Aligned to a pending, and now legal, requirement, under the UK Building Safety Act, which received Royal Assent in April 2022, I went on to develop a use case for deploying digital twins in social housing, in light of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

My second responsibility is to provide new grassroots career opportunities in the form of a Digital Twin Skills Academy.

This is focused on people aged between 16 and 25, who are seeking to learn new digital skills, and aims to bring them into the world of digital construction.

We know BIM Academy has its headquarters in the North East, but it works on projects all around the world. Can you tell us a little more about some of its catalogue?

Founded in 2011, BIM Academy has seen monumental growth, both in terms of people and revenue, increasing team size and turnover by 50 per cent in the past three years alone.

Such rapid growth has seen it become one of the most respected and trusted digital transformation specialists across the globe, guiding clients through digital strategies across the construction sector in no less than 20 countries.

With offices in Canada and Hong Kong, as well as the UK, our talented team of strategists, project managers, software developers, designers and researchers continue to expand globally, with recent contract wins in North America and the Middle East.

BIM Academy works with clients such as BMW, LEGO (much to my delight), Sydney Opera House and The Royal Household to support their transition to digital ways of working.

I have become part of an immensely talented team, and I look forward to fulfilling my ambitions with this incredible organisation, which has its roots firmly planted in the North East.