RIYADH: Serco, a British transport, defense, and public services provider, is planning to launch its space division in Saudi Arabia in 2023, a leading official told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
The company has been providing support services to the European Space Agency for over 40 years, assisting many of its significant interplanetary, Earth observation, and astronomical space missions, and is now looking to bring that expertise to the Kingdom.
Serco opened its regional hub in Riyadh in September as part of a long-term strategy to develop its Saudi-based resources and leverage its location as a driver for local and regional trade, and is now looking to expand further.
“We are set to launch our space division in the Kingdom next year and will offer some highly innovative services for the first time in the region at a time when space-related technology, data, and science are now increasingly becoming part of the national agenda,” Phil Malem, CEO of Serco Middle East, told Arab News.
“We are continuously reviewing and looking to build on our capabilities, such as supply chain services where smart asset management is key. We place huge importance on technology and providing the right tools for our clients so that they can make the right decisions for their customers,” said Malem.
The company is also planning to expand its customer insight and service design agency known as the Experience Lab in the region. It is built on insights and evidence gathered from people and processes that drive the services.
The agency engages service users and those delivering the service to ensure the final product is viable, feasible, and desirable. It also iterates prototyping, experimenting, and testing its ideas and solutions throughout the process to deliver results quicker and more effectively.
“We will also continue to expand on Serco’s customer Experience Lab by investing in its capabilities and ensuring that the team driving it will be from the Kingdom, thus ensuring that we will maintain a strong focus on service excellence,” added Malem.
Outlook for 2023
The company has released the 2023 business outlook for Saudi Arabia, which forecasts growth for the outsourcing industry, the space sector, fire and rescue services, and the emergence of a one-consultancy approach.
Its research arm Serco Institute revealed that 76 percent of the respondents within the Kingdom agreed that the government should work with international businesses to improve the quality of services and reduce costs.
“The need for delivering improved customer experiences across all fronts, at the same time as increasing flexibility and ensuring cost efficiencies, outsourcing will become paramount for the public and private sectors alike,” stated the study.
It further said the space sector will increasingly gain more focus in the region throughout 2023, particularly in the Kingdom.
It has proven to be a powerful catalyst for technological advancement in several countries worldwide. Therefore, it will be as critical in this region as technology transfer and the development of domestic science and engineering capabilities play a vital role in the national visions of countries, the study said.
“We look forward to continuing our conversations with various entities where the assimilation of strategic data from public satellite projects is becoming a fundamental national requirement, which we see as being vitally important to managing the ongoing development of the new world-class urban environments currently being constructed,” said Malem.
Privatization of fire and rescue
Additionally, the company expects a positive move toward privatizing fire and rescue services in the Kingdom, primarily focusing on creating world-class living environments through developing exciting new urban centers of excellence.
The challenge many organizations face is that FRS is not what they specialize in; it is a fundamental safety requirement they must have, therefore considering outsourcing is becoming a viable imperative for decision-makers.
It will gather momentum in 2023, particularly as the region is hosting high-profile events on the world stage, especially in Saudi Arabia.
“Serco’s dynamic approach to training allows us to provide an accredited and certified fire and rescue workforce either through the use of Serco’s own training facilities, at our International Fire Training Centre in the UK, here in the Middle East or at client facilities,” added Malem in the report.
ESG in spotlight
The study was also bullish about the region’s emerging environmental, social, and governance trends. With an increasing focus on sustainability, in part by the recent hosting of the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt and the next one in the UAE, ESG strategies will become a strategic focus and a business imperative for many companies and organizations.
Despite the prevalence of greenwashing in corporate reporting, companies will see a concerted shift toward integrating ESG measures as a key component of annual reporting procedures. Two key factors will drive this. Firstly, many employees, particularly the younger generation entering the job market, seek organizations aligned to a strong “purpose.”
Consequently, they need to feel empowered by an attachment to positive corporate values, and therefore ESG will become an essential part of this fabric moving forward in the region.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, this is not just about establishing the highest possible standards but also about providing employment opportunities to young job seekers. Therefore, strong nationalization policies are central to ESG in the Kingdom and beyond.
“Secondly, we will see a greater emphasis on advisory services in the region to support various entities and companies to embrace and implement relevant ESG practices into their organizations, not as a ‘nice to have,’ but as a fundamental strategic imperative, as legislation and operating standards will demand a stricter adherence to critical ESG measures,” the report said.
If these predictions come true, the Kingdom can expect to effectively cover much ground to achieve the Vision 2030 blueprint and reinforce its position as the regional industrial hub and economic superpower.