LOCALIZATION OVER GLOBALIZATION

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | INDUSTRY & MINING | VIP INTERVIEW

With localization at the heart of Saudi Arabia's vision 2030, BAES SA is collaborating with the government to build an independent defence industry.

How has the scope of your operations advanced in recent years?

BAE Systems has been working in partnership with Saudi Arabia for over 50 years. Developing Saudi industry, recruiting Saudi Nationals, and transferring technology and capability into Saudi Arabia is the core of our strategy. The recent introduction of Vision 2030 has articulated our strategy clearly and strengthened our resolve. BAES SA is a Saudi company with approximately 7,000 employees in KSA, 72% of which are Saudi nationals. Furthermore, half of BAES SA's board members are Saudi Nationals. We have established comprehensive systems intended to support the transfer of knowledge and technology to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whilst also supporting the long-term development of our Saudi employees. As part of this, we have a number of in-Kingdom partner companies including BAE Systems Saudi Development and Training, International Systems Engineering, Aircraft Accessories and Components Company, Saudi Maintenance Supply Chain Management Company, and Advance Electronic Company.

With the current administration's plans for localization, do you anticipate any changes to BAES SA?

We have ambitious plans to continue to expand our presence here. We have just started setting the facilities for the assembly of military fast jets, something that has never been done before in Saudi Arabia. The first major components have been delivered and assembly has commenced. To support this, we have Saudi nationals in training and gaining the experience of working on the production of these aircraft. In addition, much of the equipment that we put onto these facilities has been manufactured in Saudi Arabia, so it will be a proud moment when the first fast jet aircraft made in Saudi Arabia flies out of our facility. We are making a considerable investment, and looking forward we would like to establish joint ventures with the Saudi Government and the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI). Our activity here supports the strategy articulated by SAMI extremely well in creating jobs, transferring technology, and training Saudi nationals to create innovative and modern products.

How can global firms like BAE Systems play a role in Saudi Arabia's goal to become a knowledge-based economy?

We are extremely proud of our graduate scheme, which provides focus training and work experience and prepares fresh graduates to become leaders of the future. We also provide many apprenticeships and on-the-job training, which is about giving people craft rather than academic skills. To enable them to physically do work in maintaining aircraft and supporting high-technology equipment is of utmost importance. We have great products and opportunities for people with inquiring minds. For those who are innovative and enjoy engineering and technology, we have the best high technology products to work on across our operations.

Can the Kingdom also become a center for product development on innovation for BAE Systems?

We are already working on this and have joint ventures with a number of KAS research institutes, including King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. We provide sponsorship and send our engineers and other employees to give lectures to share our work and technology. Under our university collaboration program, we have relationships with a number of universities around the country. Collaboration with the academic world takes place not only in the Kingdom, but also via our strong ties with British and American universities.

What would you outline as your main objectives and ambitions?

For 50 years, our work carried out in the Kingdom has played a crucial part in supporting the country's national objectives and helping to maintain its security. Today, we look to build upon our proud heritage and enjoy new successes through our partnership with Saudi Arabia. We are focussed on the goals of Vision 2030 and working together with the Saudi Government to create a strong sovereign defence industry. The Vision 2030 goal of Saudi Arabia becoming the hub that connects Europe, Asia, and Africa reflects our ambitions; our goal is for Saudi Arabia to become BAE Systems' regional hub from where we can service our global clientele.