With Australia’s mining boom well and truly over and infrastructure spending at a low ebb in most Australian states, Australian engineering firms looking to the future are right to wonder where new work will come from.
The good news is that because the vast majority of the world’s building and infrastructure market lies beyond our shores, opportunities for Australian engineering firms exist in overseas markets. A recent report by the Construction Intelligence Centre predicted the overall dollar value of the global building market would grow from an estimated $US 8.5 trillion in 2015 to $US 10.3 trillion by 2020, with much of the growth taking place in emerging economies.
In terms of specialisations, hydrocarbons, power and water stand out as areas in which Australian engineers are well regarded as having significant expertise.
So, if an Australian engineering firm wanted to consider working abroad or setting up an office in an international market, where should they go and what kind of things should they consider?
For companies with a low appetite for risk, mature markets may make most sense. This is because many large companies are already headquartered in these markets, building codes and other regulations are similar to Australia’s, and language barriers are minimal or non-existent. All of these factors make the process of setting up the business, winning work and doing work relatively seamless manner, compared to markets which are very different to Australia. Think US, Canada, UK.
However, there are also some big opportunities in emerging markets too. Asia, the Middle East and Africa are urbanising at an unprecedented rate, and there is an urgent need to responding to infrastructure demands for water, housing, airports, hospitals, telecommunications and the like. Energy from generation to distribution is another growth area in the Asia Pacific region, and there is interest in renewables across wind, solar and geothermal as the main technologies. If a company is planning to work in an emerging market, it should invest extra effort in ensuring that it is fully prepared to work in a new market where operating conditions, the regulatory framework and the business culture will all be different to home.
Who is already working offshore?
As engineers already know, there are many Australian engineers working offshore in an individual capacity, but there are also Australian firms that have set up offices in other countries.
BG&E is an Australian civil and structural engineering consultancy that works across a range of sectors including property, transport, oil & gas, marine, water, materials technology and facades. The company is known for its innovative, cost-effective and award-winning designs and its ability to successfully deliver complex projects in a challenging industry.
BG&E is spread over five offices in Australia and three in the Middle East, in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai. The team includes a mix of local and international professionals, who bring together innovative ideas. BG&E has received industry recognition for delivering high standards of engineering services over numerous technically challenging projects in Australia and overseas.
Incat Crowther, winner of the 2016 National Winner for the CPA Australia Business Services Award, is another company doing great things offshore. The group has offices in Australia, USA and Europe and designs marine vessels for clients and locations all over the world. It has recently delivered vessels for clients in San Francisco, New York and Brazil.
“I think the key to our success is our ability to think outside the box and give our clients vessel designs that not only look great but functionally tick all the boxes” said Brett Crowther, Managing Director.