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Comment | Japanese takeover of BDP marks exciting times

Nippon Koei

 

Japanese consulting giant Nippon Koei finally landed in the UK this week through its £102M acquisition of design firm BDP.

It’s taken it two years to pull off – in 2014 the company launched a bid to acquire designer Hyder but was trumped by Dutch giant Arcadis. But now it’s here – and it’s exciting.

Back in 2014 we said that Nippon Koei would have made for an interesting entrant into the UK market.

Why? Here’s what it says about itself online: “Since foundation [in 1946], the company has adhered to a policy of contributing to society through technology. Since our first overseas venture, a hydroelectric power project in Myanmar in 1954, we have participated in a broad variety of sophisticated development projects worldwide. Committed to responsible corporate citizenship, our employees dedicate their efforts to creating comfortable living environments for people around the world.”

What’s not to like about that? Nippon Koei earns about $770M (£544M) a year and spends around £3.2M of it on a dedicated R&D facility – and backs this effort up via memorandums of understanding to work with leading researchers worldwide.

It’s a clearly ambitious company – its acquisition of BDP is part of a stated three-year plan to see it growing into new markets beyond Asia – yet it is also one that puts emphasis on its people – that same three-year plan features an initiative designed to enhance the work-life balance of its employees in an effort to improve its working environment and raise productivity.

So, while I’m sure some are wary of a Japanese firm like Nippon taking over a UK consultant – perhaps seeing it as opening the floodgates to takeovers from the Far East – I for one am comfortable with it; delighted even, if by doing so it pushes others to invest more in technology-led solutions.

Because, as a relentless stream of clients continue to tell us, technology is more and more the answer – and we as an industry are not embracing it quickly enough. That is perhaps a little unfair – as we reported in our February Delivering Differently issue, there are numerous examples of major civils firms really pushing the boundaries of what technology can achieve, investing in R&D and trialling real innovations in smart materials and industrialised production methods.

If Nippon Koei can arrive and add even more momentum to that, then that’s absolutely fantastic. Because, whether it is Highways England, London Underground, Network Rail, or practically any water utility you can think of, technology-led (not technology-aided) solutions are what are now in demand. Its leaders must be seeing that or else why would they choose to invest here? So welcome, Nippon Koei – we look forward to hearing much more about you.

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