KEEPING PACE

Saudi Arabia 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

As a leader in environmentally responsible and sustainable urban planning and resilient infrastructure solutions, AECOM supports the efforts of transformational change within the Kingdom.

Ian Laski
BIOGRAPHY
Ian Laski joined AECOM as Senior Vice President of Global Delivery Services in 2016 and became President & CEO of AECOM Arabia in 2018. Prior to joining AECOM, Laski was with Bechtel for 20 years, most recently serving as President of the Asia Pacific region. Laski has nearly two decades of engineering and management experience with major oil and gas projects, as well as infrastructure projects in the US, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East. He has a civil and structural engineering degree from the University of Greenwich.

How would you characterize AECOM's operations in Saudi Arabia?

AECOM is a global business with a local presence, which is our defining characteristic. We have centers of excellence around the world that focus on various parts of infrastructure. AECOM employs 87,000 people worldwide, allowing it to cover significant ground. In Saudi Arabia, we deal primarily with large infrastructure projects. One of the transformational projects we have delivered is the Jeddah Storm Water Drainage Program. This project enabled us to showcase our large project delivery capabilities and demonstrate our commitment to the Kingdom. Currently, we are delivering transformative projects related to project management organizations for various Saudi ministries, overarching management and front-end services for the megacities, and supporting the aviation industry to prepare for explosive growth in passenger numbers. We are also leading the digital transformation charge within the country. Some of that work is being performed on projects in the holy sites with an emphasis on enhancing the experience in transportation mobility, urban planning, and urban economics. Within AECOM, we have a high-level corporate commitment to Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, we have a truly diverse employee base and are committed to creating as many opportunities as possible for Saudi's young talent. We strongly advocate for an increase in female participation in the workforce and have signed an agreement with Princess Nourah University to recruit more female Saudi engineering graduates.

Saudi Arabia has announced a range of megaprojects. How is AECOM involved in these?

There are so many projects that it is impossible to be involved in all of them, so we must be selective. We are already involved in some capacity in most of the announced megaprojects, be it through the delivery of environmental impact assessments, master plans, or project management. These projects are moving on accelerated schedules, requiring us to be constantly flexible and innovative to meet our clients' demands.

How can AECOM play a role in Saudi Arabia's digital transformation?

At AECOM, we place a huge value on innovation, and this emphasis differentiates us. We are not in the engineering commodity business but in the thought leadership and delivery excellence business. In Saudi Arabia, we focus a great deal on innovative techniques and methods for the early phases of projects. We deploy 5D modeling, AR and VR tools, digitally enabled and 5G-ready infrastructure, and cybersecurity solutions. We are also pioneering AECOM's 3D-printed housing concepts. We are a leader in environmentally responsible and sustainable urban planning and resilient infrastructure solutions. Many of the areas being developed are greenfield sites, meaning they aren't encumbered by the usual constraints that cities typically face. We have a blank slate, and we can do everything right from the outset. We can build future-proof infrastructure that meets the demands of Saudi's young and growing population.

What are your strategic priorities for the coming years?

AECOM is essentially an infrastructure consultancy. Whatever one can imagine to be part of the broader forms of infrastructure, we are engaged in. We are doing front-end design and detailed design, as well as providing consultancy services while also being engaged in operations and maintenance. The future of the AECOM business in Saudi Arabia can be broadly described as supporting the project set-up phase. This encompasses front-end studies, process design, and master planning. To meet the demands and schedules of Vision 2030, we will also need to get ready for the detailed engineering and construction phases. Saudi's ambitious growth plans are challenging the engineering and construction industry, particularly in terms of the talent required to support large-scale project delivery. To that end, we are developing a generation of young Saudi professionals who can support their country's efforts to build for the future. We are treated as partners within the country, meaning we must deliver a model for a sustainable and professional workforce.