Geoscience Ireland: Plotting a growth path through diversification and innovation
02 October 2018
Diversification, as a business and marketing strategy, opens up new possibilities for businesses to expand into target markets, or differentiating products or services through innovation. In doing so, businesses are expanding horizons and facilitating growth potential.
Market diversification and product innovation are cornerstones of Geoscience Ireland (GI) and its 36 member companies. Its members, through developing and reviewing their export strategies, assess diversification on a regular basis. GI engages with its members in reviewing new market opportunities and identifying market access methods.
Geoscience Ireland was established in 2012 with the specific goal to assist its members in winning business overseas; and, today, bid for commercial projects in a diversified range of markets including the UK, the Nordics, France, the Balkans, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Canada.
This business plan arose as a response to the economic collapse in Ireland; indeed, during the preceding period of strong domestic growth, a number of Irish companies had strong international experience and actively sought overseas tenders, though the lion’s share of indigenous companies had been embedded in the Irish economy and lacked an export component.
This represented a challenge for Irish companies across a number of sectors; in 2012, five reference companies from the geoscience sector, along with Geological Survey Ireland and Enterprise Ireland combined to establish Geoscience Ireland as the sectors response to evaluating and bidding for overseas tenders.
The ever-evolving global political and trade landscape will continue to present challenges and opportunities for Ireland’s small, open economy; none more immediate than the UK’s impending departure from the European Union.
Today, the UK is the lead market to which GI member companies export and Brexit will have a number of ramifications for all Irish exporters; therefore there is a renewed focus from GI, its member companies, and Irish export agencies to assess deeper overseas diversification.
Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s national export agency, has a two-pronged approach to Brexit. In the first instance, it is working with Irish companies in the UK which are embedded in its economy and have a sustained network of clients and project histories to remain competitive in the market; secondly, EI is engaging with Irish exporters to evaluate accessing viable new export markets.
Focus for the future
Through its continuing engagement with members and stakeholders, GI will continue to identify overseas opportunities, and encourage market diversification and agility in a changing global landscape.
The looming impacts of Brexit and potential trade wars between the super-economies will indeed call for cautious economic outlooks.
In the UK, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) expects the rail and energy sectors – sectors to which the geoscience skill set is pertinent – to be the most prominent contributors to construction output increases in 2018/ 2019.
The government’s commitment to its high-speed rail infrastructure is evident though investment in wider economic and transport infrastructure varies from region-to-region across the UK which is indicative of cautious decision making, investment constraints and competing priorities.
In its market survey, RICS noted that 21 per cent more contributors reported a rise in workloads though Brexit-related uncertainties and the ‘unpredictability’ engendered by recent shocks such as Carillion’s collapse, as weighing on investment decisions.
Such long-term uncertainty and significant shocks are compounded by short term impediments to growth such as financial constraints, planning delays and labour shortages.
Shocks to trade agreements and policies could impact the development of the economic infrastructure which is required to deliver goods and commodities, though the likes of France and the Nordics are investing in substantial transport projects at present.
Globally, more and more physical routes to market are planned to connect Europe with East Asia, while the Gulf region continues to advance similar projects and strategies. International and financial institutions, such as the World Bank, European and global development agencies, continue to invest in low-risk commercial projects in developing economies and GI members have a proven track record in winning business in these markets.
Requirement for 3D survey deliverables in subsurface utility engineering
In the last three to five years there has been an increasing demand by engineering consultants and construction companies to know the position of underground service assets, both on a regional and national scale.
This demand is due to lessons learned from previous utility strikes, claims within the industry and the need to reduce human risk factors or limiting future potential utility strikes.
With recent technical advances in utility mapping it is now more cost effective to comprehensively map the below ground infrastructure.
Currently on the Sydney Light Rail* project the contractor is demanding an extra $1.2 billion to complete the tram line, claiming it was misled on the complexity of moving underground utilities.
That is on top of a $500 million budget, which could see the cost of line double from original estimates. If a comprehensive 3D survey of the underground infrastructure was carried out at the planning stage the majority of the delays and claims could have been avoided.
Recently, with advances in technological and computing power, we are seeing huge advances in areas such as augment reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and building information modelling (BIM).
These areas are being driven by engineering consultants, architects, project management, design and construction companies who are designing in a virtual 3D environment and working in a real 3D environment, which aim to reduce costs and increase the quality of as-built data captured during construction.
‘We are seeing huge advances in areas such as augment reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and building information modelling (BIM).’ David Graham
Manufacturers of underground utility detection equipment are continually developing their ground penetrating radar systems (GPR). Multi array systems can be towed behind moving vehicles along roads and pavements at faster speeds, capturing up to 34 times the amount of GPR survey data than previously possible with a single GPR antenna.
This is coupled with advancements in the GPR software used to process the field data and the advancement in software used to create 3D models of the utility infrastructure derived from the survey field data and other sources. Furthermore, the advancement in electromagnetic locators (EML) allows located data to be logged electronically and accurately using hand held devices.
Innovations in hardware and software
Therefore, with innovations in hardware and software we can capture more survey field data comprehensively on site. We can subsequently process this data more efficiently and present survey deliverables with more reliability in a 3D model format which can be used for clash detection, asset management, analysing and design.
Similarly, with new start-up companies and some survey equipment manufacturers focused on technological innovations such as AR and VR, hopefully this will encourage better survey field practices, increase user knowledge and ultimately help build future smart cities.
By producing comprehensive 3D survey models from utility surveys carried out to specification by qualified surveyors and engineers, the level of confidence clients have, especially design engineers, is increased and the risks of utility strikes and injury to construction workers on live construction sites is dramatically reduced.
Murphy Surveys carry out all our underground utility surveys at a minimum to PAS 128 Specification for Underground Utility Detection, Verification and Location. This ensures that our clients have clarity, accountability and confidence in our work.
For more information on our 3D survey deliverables for underground utility engineering contact our Head of Subsurface Engineering Division David Graham on 045 484 040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.’ Peter Senge
GI award winning member, GDG, sees bright future in the international market
Gavin and Doherty Geosolutions – GDG is a specialist geotechnical and civil engineering consultancy, providing innovative solutions to a broad range of engineering problems.
GDG is a UK and Irish based company that provides engineering services to the international market, including concept design, detailed design, in-situ monitoring and general geotechnical advice. Among our expertise we offer high-end technical analysis and numerical modelling.
GDG has developed from a strong background in applied geotechnical and civil engineering research. Through application of these skills, we offer progressive and reliable designs across a range of industry problems.
GDG provides a unique engineering service that combines the state of the art research with industry and leads to the most efficient geotechnical and civil engineering designs.
We are actively involved in a diverse range of international projects ranging from major civil infrastructure projects, port redevelopments, harbours/marinas, road and railway schemes, development of offshore oil/gas fields, onshore and offshore wind farms, and commercial structures. Our clients include large civil contractors, project developers and other engineering consulting firms.
From Ireland to the world
We have an extended national network of clients to whom we have delivered a wide range of projects. Ultimately our objective is to de-risk these projects for our clients, particularly those involving complex construction or challenging ground conditions.
One of our recently completed projects, which we are particularly proud of, is the award-winning Gothenburg project, where GDG partnered up with Sigma Civil to develop an accurate pile induced ground movement analysis for a complex site in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Looking ahead, the company’s objective is to expand its business to the global market. To achieve its goals, GDG’s short-term and medium-term strategy relies on the UK market where we have opened three offices, one in London, one in Edinburgh and another in Belfast.
GDG has seen very significant growth over the last number of years through offering our expertise to international markets and taking on some of the most challenging geotechnical projects worldwide.
Some projects worth mentioning are the Birmingham resilience project, which is a 3D modelling of a piled shaft in the UK to facilitate a new water intake work, and the most recently commissioned Landslide Hazard and Risk Pilot Study in Guatemala.
R&D, a success key to competitiveness
We see R&D as a crucial tool to facilitate innovation and maintain our status as a market leading consultancy in the area of all things ‘geo’. With a background in applied research and practical soil mechanics, GDG maintains a strong research and development interest with an extensive portfolio of cutting edge projects.
The technical team at GDG is expert in addressing the challenges that complex ground conditions often create. We find technically and economically efficient solutions for both onshore and offshore situations.
GDG has invested in research and development as a strategy to build the company’s value and to innovate its design techniques. Client’s trust the company’s ability and GDG’s designs comply with the most recent design techniques. Research and development also add value to the employees as they are constantly training and developing.
The research and development involve partnership with a number universities and research centres in the UK such as QUB (Queen’s University Belfast) and BGS (British Geological Survey).
‘We see R&D as a crucial tool to facilitate innovation and maintain our status as a market leading consultancy in the area of all things geo’ Paul Doherty
As a result of our continued investment in R&D, GDG is one of 9 Irish companies to receive the Horizon 2020 SME INSTRUMENT funding this year, as featured in The Irish Times.
This competitive funding supports innovative solutions that are ambitious and that have the potential to revolutionise existing markets. GDG’s novel solution can be used to conduct a risk ranking of earthwork assets along transportation networks and supports effective decision making for infrastructure managers, ensuring optimised budget spending that prevents asset failures.
This is the leading solution available that is based on novel scientific algorithms that were developed based on significant R&D activities conducted in-house by GDG. The solution has already been implemented to manage earthworks along the Irish rail network, and GDG now intends to commercialise this innovative solution within the European and global markets.
A good example of a successful R&D project recently concluded is the Destination Rail, focused on developing novel solutions for critical rail infrastructure.
The hard work and commitment to excellence in what we do is recognised not only by our clients. GDG has recently won several awards and will keep delivering high quality work to meet and overcome our clients’ needs and expectations. Some of our recent recognitions include:
- Causeway Innovative Company of the Year Award (2018)
- ACEI Innovation Award for Design Excellence (2018)
- Excellence on the Provision of Professional Services to the Marine Industry (2017)
- Overall Marine Industry Excellence Award (2017)
- Emerging Professional Consulting Engineer: Paul Doherty (ACEI) 2017
- Young Professional of the Year: Paul Doherty (EFCA)2017
- Engineers Ireland Geoscience Excellence Award (2016)
- Shortlisted for ACEI Innovation Excellence Award (2017)
- Finalist for Ground Engineering Awards for Technical Excellence (2017)
- Finalist for Ground Engineering Awards Young Geotechnical Engineer (John O’Donovan)
We are excited about our continued expansion in the international market and we look forward to keep delivering high quality projects across the marine, offshore, renewables and infrastructure sectors.
FLI Group market diversification
Diversification is essential for every business in terms of providing protection to the business from risks associated with over-dependence on existing products and services, existing customers and existing markets, all of which can change at short notice due to events or circumstances beyond the control of the business owners and managers.
Examples of such changes which can cause loss of market share and customers are: technology improvements by competitors that render your product or service too expensive or even obsolete; change of ownership or management in your clients organisation; changes to legislation; increased competition and market maturity or saturation to name a few.
Diversification can take several forms:
• Existing products and/or services being sold in a new market;
• New products and/or services added to the existing market;
• New products and/or services being sold in a new market.
While diversification is essential for a business to remain strong, growing and relevant, all three examples of diversification listed here come with risks and challenges that must be fully evaluated and costed before committing to significant investment of time, resources and finance.
Achieving business growth and stability
The FLI Group have diversified in all three of the forms listed, by both organic business diversification and growth, and by acquisition. Our objectives were to achieve business growth and sustainability by leveraging the knowledge, skills and abilities within each of the businesses to generate synergies, new business opportunities and growth prospects where our respective business units overlapped.
‘The experience of the FLI Group in achieving sustained business success internationally is to respect the market that you are entering, learn about the cultural and operational differences in that market, and then adapt your processes and procedures to suit that market.’ Michael Flynn
The risks associated with market diversification and business diversification are many. Some of the risks that have to be evaluated, measured and costed are:
• What products and/or services are being considered;
• What market sector is being considered;
• What geographic market is being considered;
• What time frame is being considered;
• Who will be involved in the evaluation of the diversification opportunity;
• What budget is available for each element of the evaluation process.
While Ireland is an open economy and we are very flexible by nature, the same is not true of other established markets where there may be barriers to entry at the outset and complex bureaucracy to be complied with when operational.
France is an example of a big and established market where there are many business growth opportunities, but there are also many cultural differences, complex employment regulations and a long-established way of doing business.
The experience of the FLI Group in achieving sustained business success internationally is to respect the market that you are entering, learn about the cultural and operational differences in that market, and then adapt your processes and procedures to suit that market.
Globalisation has brought many positive potential growth opportunities to businesses in general and the business world now operates 24/7, fuelled by ICT and social media. Some of the downsides of technology and the information age include geopolitical instability that is currently creating great uncertainty in established markets such as the UK and USA.
All businesses must embrace diversification in one shape or form in order to stay relevant. As a member of Geoscience Ireland, the FLI Group and our member colleagues discuss and assess business diversification on a regular basis.
Fehily Timoney – providing peat assessments
Fehily Timoney (FT) have undertaken a large number of peat stability assessments at different stages of wind energy development projects in recent years (with 100+ wind energy projects completed through EIAR stage, many of which included for peat stability assessment).
This has been driven by the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) which has set targets for renewable energy consumption across the EU.
Under the Renewable Energy Directive, Ireland has been set a target of ensuring that renewable energy amounts to more than 16 per cent of final energy consumption by 2020.
To date, wind energy has been the largest driver of growth in renewable electricity, and the largest contributor to the achievement of the 2020 target.
Peatland areas have been identified by landowners, developers and energy companies as having a number of advantages over other categories of land in terms of potential wind farm development of scale. As such the development of peatland areas is key to meeting Ireland’s renewable energy targets.
From the demand for new wind energy sources across Ireland, FT have delivered peat stability assessments for a range of clients at pre-planning/EIAR stage, detailed design and construction stages of projects.
We have provided high level advice and guidance at the early, conception stage of a proposed wind energy development through to detailed site surveys and intrusive investigations to provide up to date, site specific data to the developer or contractors during construction stage.
As FT has expanded our in-house knowledge and understanding of the key ground risks associated with development of peatland, we have developed a bespoke methodology for peat stability assessments.
We have integrated 3D topographical surveys, LiDAR and geophysical surveys as well as traditional site investigation techniques to generate landslide susceptibility and peat stability mapping for wind energy projects.
FT have identified low-level drone LiDAR and aerial photography surveys as a natural progression in developing peat stability mapping and offer this method for large scale developments on remote, upland peatlands as a cost-effective method of data capture.
In delivering our assessments to our clients we have continuously reviewed the client’s requirements for the communication and presentation of the findings of peat stability assessments and as such have looked to diversify our approach to the challenges presented with development peatland sites.
FT are currently collaborating with Research Staff at University College Cork and iCRAG, the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences in relation to their research into peat stability in Ireland and can offer detailed assessments to identify key ground risks, planning feasibility assessments and ecological surveys to provide a full risk profile for peat deposits within the development boundary.
‘As FT has expanded our in-house knowledge and understanding of the key ground risks associated with development of peatland, we have developed a bespoke methodology for peat stability assessments.’ James Dunn
FT have recently completed peat stability assessments at EIAR stage in the successful planning application of the Moanvane Wind Farm, Co. Offaly.
We provided EIAR, detailed design and construction stage consultancy during the successful delivery of the 174MW Galway Wind Park Project. This is currently Ireland’s largest wind farm which comprised 58 Siemens 3W wind turbines developed on extensive upland peat deposits.
FT also continue to provide peat assessments to our clients for proposed wind energy projects across Ireland. With our multi-disciplinary team providing advice and consultancy on all aspects of the development including EIAR and statutory consents, post planning compliance, due diligence and detailed design.https://www.engineersjournal.ie/2018/10/02/geoscience-ireland-plotting-growth-path-diversification-innovation/https://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/geoscience.pnghttps://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/geoscience-300x300.pngSponsored3D,BIM,Geoscience Ireland