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Prof Dr Uwe Krueger

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Prof Dr Uwe Krueger was appointed an executive director in June 2011, taking up the post of chief executive officer in August 2011. He is a physicist who studied at the University of Frankfurt, graduating with a PhD in complex system theory. He also studied at Columbia University (New York), the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris), at Harvard (Boston) and he holds an Honorary Professorship in Physics from the University of Frankfurt am Main. Uwe has spent the majority of his career leading engineering and consulting organisations in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

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We must never lose sight of this truth. President Obama recently stressed the need to invest in infrastructure because “that's what great nations do.” Yet as we approach an important milestone in U.S. history, the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026, there are some uncomfortable truths to consider.

U.S. physical infrastructure received a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers in its last report card, with estimated investment of $3.6 trillion needed by 2020. Putting the challenge into sharper focus, a recent study by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association highlighted that some 61,000 U.S. bridges were “structurally deficient,” many on heavily travelled interstate highways. In an international context, the World Economic Forum’s latest global competitiveness report ranked U.S. infrastructure 11th in the world, despite America’s third-place overall competitiveness ranking. The nation’s historic strength in infrastructure has become a relative weakness.

Clearly, massive investment in U.S. infrastructure is now imperative. This investment will serve the Millennial generation particularly well, ensuring future growth in GDP, creating jobs and raising wages for those just starting their careers, and setting the foundation for continued U.S. prosperity.

But who will fund this urgently needed investment? With increasing pressure on federal and state budgets, it is time to craft new solutions.

Many financial institutions are willing to invest in infrastructure when they can see a clear investment case—along with a stable political and tax environment. Industry must sit at the table with government and the investor community to find approaches that will drive U.S. infrastructure investment.

A few such initiatives are already underway. A new expert group at the World Economic Forum has, for the first time, brought together the major engineering and construction industry players with funding institutions, public and private, on a worldwide basis. The members of this group include large pension funds, private equity players, sovereign wealth funds, and new development banks, most notably the $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It seems the challenge is not a lack of money, but rather matching available capital to suitable, financeable projects.

As important, government leaders must make the case for infrastructure investment directly with voters. A recent example of this can be seen in Atlanta, which faces an infrastructure backlog of more than $900 million. To help address this urgent need, Mayor Kasim Reed in 2015 initiated an infrastructure bond referendum. Voters approved $250 million in the bond vote to pay for repairs and improvements. This will be the single largest investment in the city’s infrastructure in more than a decade.

Looking ahead to 2026, technology and big data will transform how infrastructure is designed, developed, and maintained—making the investment case even more attractive. Asset owners seek to create long-term value and to effectively manage the total life cycle cost of their assets. New technologies can help create and ensure value through the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and renovation phases of an infrastructure asset, while Internet-linked sensors now allow us to get real-time intelligence about the condition of a building, bridge, or tunnel.

The company I lead, Atkins, sees tremendous opportunities in and for the U.S. transportation market. For example, the market for intelligent mobility—a methodology that connects people, places, and goods across transportation networks, creating end-to-end journeys—is exploding. Intelligent mobility will open up countless new opportunities to improve the transport system by creating a truly integrated platform that delivers travel solutions in a cost-effective and highly efficient manner. By 2026, Americans will increasingly expect seamless travel solutions across their country.

The future looks very exciting with connected, autonomous and semi‑autonomous vehicles set to revolutionise our driving habits, fundamentally reshaping how we design transport infrastructure to intelligently interact with this new generation of vehicles. Cities and their suburbs must prepare now for the coming technologies that will fundamentally change how people move and interact.

In sum, while the challenges ahead are indeed daunting, the capabilities at our disposal are improving exponentially. To ensure that the United States maintains its competitiveness and its position as a global economic powerhouse, we must have greater collaboration among government, infrastructure advisors, and financial institutions, coupled with new technology-led innovations. I believe this formula will create a very bright future for America@250.

Republished with permission from: https://www.atkearney.com/america250/the-road-to-a-competitive-future


On July 4, 2026, America will celebrate its 250th birthday. What kind of nation will it be? What can we do now to shape that future? America@250 is a multiyear research initiative and national dialogue exploring these vitally important questions.

North America,

How can we embrace technology – not for technology’s sake – but for the real benefit of our customers, our own companies and the communities we serve? Atkins’ CEO Uwe Krueger provides a perspective from the ENR Global Construction Summit in New York.

The nature of the construction industry is changing rapidly, driven by tougher market and trading conditions and by demands from clients for better value and more innovation. There are higher expectations from funding institutions for cost efficiency and project certainty. There is also political pressure, as governments seek better value for money.

We are also facing rapid growth in both population and urbanisation, creating an enormous infrastructure funding gap, but the challenge is not funding: financial institutions are willing to invest if they can see a clear investment case and cash stream – and a stable political and tax environment.

The challenge is matching capital to suitable, financeable projects.

What can the infrastructure industry do to attract investment into the sector? It has to improve and not be afraid to innovate.

For the investment community, risk is a key consideration. The technology used by our sector can play a critical role in identifying, and mitigating, risk and make a huge change in the pace of progress.

Risk can be mitigated, in part, by increasing certainty around project input costs (which reflect complexity of design and construction and engineering delivery risk). Innovative technology, in the form of digital engineering, can make a big difference.

Digital engineering in essence is the automation of all or parts of the life cycle of a built asset. With digital engineering and building information modelling (BIM), value creation can be mapped through the design, construction, operation, maintenance and renovation phases of any project.

The use of big data analysis can help our clients make better informed decisions, resulting in greater resilience in our infrastructure. More effective safety and security measures can be implemented based on the complete picture offered by digital engineering. Even productivity can be improved, as new tools – like BIM – enable project managers to improve efficiencies by collating all project information into one digital location.

New, advanced materials and production methods are being added to the mix: additive fabrication such as 3D printing processes are now being increasingly used in the construction industry to speed the building process.

From Crossrail to the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station in the UK, digital modelling is at the heart of these projects. Cities must prepare for the coming technologies that will fundamentally change how people move and interact with their surroundings. We are only at the starting point to comprehend how smart phones and other intelligent personal devices will interact with infrastructure in the future.

So, which technologies and approaches should we apply? There are some important considerations:

Pace: we need to attract a new generation of technology savvy youngsters to our industry, to keep up with this evolving digital landscape.

Compromise: the available technologies, even in combination, don’t provide a “one-size fits all” solution – we need a trial and error approach. It is all about quantifying risk and the certainty of delivery for our clients.

Adaptation: the notion of “best practice” is shifting with each new tool – we need to get much more agile in the way we embrace technology.

If we, as an industry, take these opportunities seriously, we have the chance for a period of technology driven growth. We have the privilege to shape the environment where people live and work tomorrow, to attract the right people and to create the future with them.

Asia Pacific, Middle East, North America, Rest of World, UK & Europe,

One year ago at Davos we were full of optimism with regard to the state of the world. Finally in most countries the recession was behind us. Then, just three months before this year’s Davos meeting, the world got more complex.

There is a lot more volatility today compared to just half a year ago. Clearly the dramatic drop in oil price is one of the major reasons. From a European perspective the war at our doorstep in the Ukraine is a major issue and how to deal with the collateral damage that is resulting. The advent of yet another crisis in the Middle East with Isis spreading its terror wings not only in Syria and Iraq, but in North Africa, added additional volatility. And clearly also the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen added to this sense of security crisis and volatility. That clearly had an effect on the mood at Davos and put a sobering atmosphere on the event as people struggled to understand the economic consequences of this instability.

On the other hand it was interesting to see more of a cohesion, realism and pragmatism in the discussions between the politicians and industry CEOs. There is a lot more will to cooperate and a real effort to really listen to each other.

Personally, this is my 12th year at Davos, in various CEO roles, and I have never yet seen so much positive, constructive interaction between politicians and industry and that I found very encouraging. It’s also a new generation of leaders on both sides of the aisle. We see a generation that is more willing to engage, more multilingual and that has seen more back and forth between individuals between politics and industry that clearly helps. Specifically this is true for leaders from the developing world who have had excellent educations often in western countries and are more akin to a content rich dialogue with industry.

How Davos influenced my thoughts about possible opportunities for the future

It clearly made me aware of the areas in the world where in our industry we can expect above average market growth. Specifically, this is true for Asia Pacific and for Sub-Saharan Africa and it is also true for the US. The US market is bouncing back big time and is probably one of the healthiest economies at the moment with the well reported revival of the US infrastructure and engineering market.

Sub Saharan Africa is also very interesting. Six out of eight of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Arguably on an absolute level they are still at an early stage of development but the relative growth of these economies is stunning. The same is true for Central Asia and AsiaPac, countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan but also Indonesia and now India with the Government of prime minister Narendra Modi looking to attract more foreign investment.

Finally, the role that technology plays in our industry has much increased. That applies to digital asset management, BIM, and innovative business models that start to mushroom around transportation and infrastructure. The bottom line is that I came away from Davos recognising the world is more volatile and challenging but that there is an increasing demand for the kind of sophisticated engineering consultancy that we offer.


To find out what Uwe spoke about at the World Economic Forum, see here.

Asia Pacific, Middle East, North America, Rest of World, UK & Europe,

Infrastructure funding is a complex problem for both developing and developed nations but engineers can provide a way forward. Atkins’ CEO Uwe Krueger provides a perspective from the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Infrastructure funding and development has been a central theme at the World Economic Forum’s Davos annual meeting since 2011, under the umbrella of the Strategic Infrastructure Initiative, and for a very good reason. WEF has described global infrastructure as “the engine of the world’s productivity”.

National governments across the globe are facing ever mounting challenges in the creation and modernisation of infrastructure within their countries and yet the estimated shortfall in global infrastructure debt and equity investment is at least US$ 1 trillion per year.

As population mounts at unprecedented levels around key urban centres so the pressure to provide the infrastructure needed to boost economic growth and social wellbeing increases.

These pressures are, of course, keenly felt in poorer countries. Here the influx of private capital is critical. Back in 2012, Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia noted that “without the private sector, there is no development.”

While the struggles of parts of Africa to attract investment into infrastructure are well documented we should not forget that this issue also exists in more wealthy nations. Recently US current affairs TV show 60 Minutes took a sobering look at the nation’s infrastructure, noting the US had fallen to 16th in WEF’s league table and would require a staggering $3.6 trillion to fix the problem.

This week, I have been sitting with other governmental, NGO and business leaders to debate how to close the infrastructure funding gap. The solutions to this issue are complex and cannot be easily solved but the WEF’s Infrastructure Investment Policy Blueprint gives us a helpful way forward.

My input to this session focussed on some key points. Firstly, the fact that the investor community perception of the infrastructure sector is key. Therefore a more clearly articulated argument for the benefits of infrastructure is needed.

It is recognised that infrastructure represents an investment asset class. The attraction of matching stable dividend streams from long-term projects to the long-term horizons of pension funds is very apparent to institutional investors and, potentially, a huge source of capital for funding infrastructure

To attract this funding a proactive approach is needed to inform and advise investors.

We need to consider how companies like Atkins can influence the “supply” side to overcome the barriers to investment. How can engineers help governmental organisations to prioritise their needs and strategise on the way their projects are delivered?

Domain knowledge is key. This knowledge, held by engineers and gleaned through due diligence, should be the subject of closer consultation and engagement with fund managers with the aim of better analysing and managing financial risk. Ultimately a more proactive interaction between engineers and the financial community will help stimulate investment. Atkins’ work with the World Bank on advising a National Transport Strategy for Malaysia is a good example of this.

We can add the greatest value by providing a ‘client friend’ role to recipient national governments, building capacity and ensuring an integrated and holistic approach to strategy development is followed through in project implementation.

This article was first published in Infrastructure Intelligence.

Asia Pacific, Middle East, North America, Rest of World, UK & Europe,

Rail is undergoing a global renaissance. China’s high-speed network reached the 10,000km mark at the end of 2013, while in the UK, more than £42bn has been earmarked for the creation of HS2, the high speed line designed to bridge the north-south divide with trains travelling at up to 400kmh.

Demand for rail is growing everywhere and it is being driven by urbanisation. Meeting this demand requires evolutionary change: existing assets will require adaptation, while new infrastructure must be designed with the ability to handle challenges that cannot be predicted easily.

Delivering this change means prioritising the efficient use of both materials and energy while continuing to meet the highest standards of quality and safety. A holistic approach to problem-solving, modelling and dealing with interdependencies between risks is also needed.

All of this requires a new kind of design, engineering and delivery. Four areas will require particular focus. First is the need to address the scale of the urbanisation challenge. Second is building the economic case for rail. Third is dealing with challenges such as skills shortages and infrastructure limitations. And fourth is the need for greater collaboration.

Urbanisation

The global population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050. By then, 75 per cent of people will live in cities.

Population increases and urbanisation are acute challenges being faced everywhere, but especially in developing economies. It is not surprising that countries in the Asia Pacific region and Africa are responding with investment in rail networks as a key coping strategy.

The key to attracting investment is to get the business case right. Denmark’s rail modernisation programme – which includes the world’s first nationwide re-signalling scheme – is a good example of how a compelling business case to deliver national infrastructure upgrades can be made.

The economic case

Global demand for high speed rail is expected to grow rapidly over the next 15 years. One of engineering’s roles will be to provide solutions which deliver confidence to our clients that their investments will be realised.

Connected cities can quickly evolve into city regions, even mega regions. This delivers both short and medium-term economic benefits.

In the UK, the development of high speed rail has been described by government as the “most significant transportation infrastructure project since the building of the motorways… laying the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic growth”.

The arrival of HS2 will extend the reach of Birmingham – the UK’s second biggest city – as a city region, with enhanced links north to Leeds and Manchester, and south to London.

In France, high speed rail has linked the nation’s leading cities and delivered connectivity with northern Europe, the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

Denmark’s Fehmarnbelt fixed link will connect eastern Denmark with the rest of Europe via a 19km immersed tunnel and promises to deliver growth for the region. Atkins is delivering the execution and implementation of railway safety services throughout all project phases until the commissioning of the railway.

In South Africa, the Gautrain project will help to grow the economy of the Gauteng province by an estimated eight per cent by the end of 2014. Some 40,000 local jobs will be created by new developments on top of 63,000 jobs created by the project itself.

The challenges

Urbanisation and the expansion of rail present great opportunities – but making the most of these will depend upon attracting the best engineers against a backdrop of a global shortage of skilled workers.

Two things work against the industry here. First, banks and other institutions are able to offer higher salaries and attract engineers away from the sector. Second, a demographic shift means many of the baby-boomer generation have retired from the industry in recent years.

The ambition to reduce costs while dealing with the economic realities of supply and demand also presents a significant challenge. The industry must continue to collaborate and develop cutting-edge technology to ensure cost reductions can be realised.

In the case of high speed rail, there is a need to ensure that the technical challenges associated with safety at high and ultra-high speeds are fully understood.

Trains already run at very high speeds; the issue is whether current track technology is able to support this in the long term. In some cases, trains are run below target speed because of the impact on track infrastructure.

Significant research is required to develop design guidelines on which track type is best suited for a particular application and speed. Advances in track technology could also reduce noise and vibration associated with high speed rail.

By analysing high-speed running on test rigs, for example, it is possible to measure and mitigate noise and vibration impacts. The ability to do this could be of huge benefit in winning support for new high speed rail projects.

It is clear that a holistic approach is required for high speed railway design that encompasses trains’ suspension systems, track form, ground conditions, drainage and operational maintenance regimes, so that track technology can address the challenges that the industry will face in future.

Need for collaboration

Collaboration will play a vital part in meeting the complexity of the challenges outlined above. Partnerships, both in academia and business, will help to drive innovation.

An example is the memorandum of understanding Atkins signed with Heriot-Watt University in the UK to establish a Centre of Excellence for High Speed Rail. This collaboration now extends to the Middle East and Malaysia through the university’s own international programme.

In Denmark, Atkins supports the rail education programme at the Danish Technical University through the Danish Rail Sector Association (BaneBranchen).

In Sweden, Atkins works closely with several rail-related schools ranging from the technical institutes of Stockholm and Lund, through smaller regional centres of higher education through to the National Rail School. This makes it possible to influence how rail education is developed and to gain insight into where to find the best talent

The aim of these collaborations is to create a platform that develops and shares a best-of-class academic approach and practical innovations to push boundaries and develop real solutions that will work worldwide.

Where next?

The scale of the challenges facing the industry cannot be underestimated. In responding to these challenges, the industry must look beyond the traditional boundaries of engineering.

Communication is fundamental. The industry must ensure it is sitting next to the politicians, the economists and the scientists, informing robust decision making and helping to put everything in context.

Explaining and solving the technical challenges will help deliver transformational railways that people will want to use. It will also address issues such as how to reduce the carbon footprint of the railway or decreasing the land-take needed for new and existing lines. Both could drastically improve the business case for developing a modern railway.

Collaboration is vital. The cities and routes served by modern railways are complex, so a broad spread of expertise is needed to deliver smart design. The key is to have common goals and create central coordination methods.

Improving connectivity is vital to the future-proofing of society and managing urbanisation. The industry has it within its power to deliver this transformation.

This feature is based on a speech given by Atkins’ chief executive officer Professor Dr Uwe Krueger at the 2014 Danish Rail Conference (14 May 2014).

UK & Europe,