VIDEO: European leaders discuss state of consultancy and engineering sector

Patricia Moore, head of UK infrastructure at Turner & Townsend.

When leaders from Europe’s top consultancy and engineering firms gathered at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London recently for the eighth European CEO Conference, the challenge of change was very much on the agenda.

The two-day conference, Managing Global Uncertainty - delivering growth for profitability in a shifting business landscape, saw sector leaders and those that work with the industry discussing the current state of the consultancy and engineering industry and the challenges facing firms of all sizes.

During the conference, a number of the speakers at the event took the opportunity to talk on camera about the challenges they and the industry face in the current economic and political climate. What they said made for interesting listening and viewing at the links highlighted below

CEO of French consultancy firm Artelia, Alain Bentejac said that the industry was facing many challenges at the same time and that this made it more difficult to deal with change. He pinpointed globalisation, technology and skills as being particularly important and said that it was beneficial that the market was growing as that meant that there were more opportunities for firms to grasp. Watch Alain Bentejac here.

Alfredo Ingletti, chairman of Italian consultancy 3TI Progetti, said that there was uncertainty about the effects of Brexit, but with a limited involvement with the UK market he wasn’t too worried about the UK leaving the EU. Ingletti talked about the differences between the Italian and UK market and the challenges of delays to projects in the home market. Click here to view Alfredo Ingletti.

Bruce Tether from Manchester Business School said that there was massive change affecting the industry and he saw technology, which was changing all the time, having a dramatic impact on the industry in the near future, especially in the area of AI. He also said it was important to understand that amidst all the change there was still some stability in the sector and that shouldn’t be overlooked. See Bruce Tether here

For Arup CEO Geoff Hunt, the challenge of operating globally was a key issue facing firms like his, both in terms of the technological issues and also the human resources challenge. There are unresolved data issues that the industry needed to address quickly said Hunt.

Bentley Systems CEO Greg Bentley said that firms going digital was having a massive effect on firms operating in the sector. The speed of innovation was fast and Bentley said that the adoption of new technologies and systems had the potential to change the business model for the sector, though firms were currently not moving as fast as those in other industry sectors. See Greg Bentley here.

Karin Sluis, director of Netherland’s-based consultancy Witteveen + Bos, said that the sustainable development goals were having an increasing impact on the sector. Engineers were at the heart of delivering these goals, said Sluis, and despite the complexities involved she was optimistic about the industry being able to deliver.

Mott MacDonald chairman Keith Howells said that greater standardisation was key to the industry improving its efficiency and productivity. With the technology currently available there was no reason why efficiencies could not be made at a faster pace, said Howells. See Keith Howells here

Meanwhile, Mathew Riley, chief executive of Ramboll, highlighted the need to change the public procurement rules in order to promote innovation, as currently these were inhibiting consultancy and engineering firms.

Head of UK infrastructure at Turner & Townsend, Patricia Moore, said that client expectations were changing and evolving. She was increasingly seeing clients demanding behavioural competencies, such as driving collaboration and the need to innovate, but procurement rules and contracts weren’t necessarily facilitating that so this was an area that needed to be addressed. See Patricia Moore here.

Nicholas O’Dwyer chief executive, Richard Crowe, said that one of the biggest changes he had seen in recent years was to procurement models, especially in the area of design and build. Politics was also having an increasing effect on sustainable procurement and industry leaders were having to take that into account more than they did. View Richard Crowe here.

Finally, construction industry expert, Roger Flanagan from the University of Reading, said that money was still a key driver of the market but it was a very different market from the past, with new competition, new ways of procurement. Clients don’t want to hear about challenges and problems, they just want solutions, he said. The industry would have to think and work differently in future, said Flanagan. View Roger Flanagan here

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email awalker@infrastructure-intelligence.com.