Malcolm and Malcolm on Modelling 1
What does the SYSTRA-JMP-SIAS integration mean for modelling?
Malcolm Calvert and Malcolm Neil from SIAS are two men who know a thing or two about modelling. In the first of two interviews, Malcolm C finds out from Malcolm N what he thinks the forthcoming integration of three companies with significant modelling expertise means for the industry.
MC: To start, can you tell me a bit about your own modelling experience?
MN: In 1993, I graduated from Napier University with a Civil & Transportation Engineering Degree, a path that other colleagues in SYSTRA and JMP have followed. My first job was with TPA (which became Oscar Faber TPA) primarily focussing on strategic modelling. I moved to Peter Brett Associates and got involved in overseas projects. I then jumped over to the client side, working at Fife Council before re-joining Oscar Faber when microsimulation was starting to come to the fore. I moved to SIAS in 2001, where Paramics was in its early stages, so I’ve seen Paramics evolve over the years and more recently the creation of Paramics Discovery.
MC: What would you say SIAS’s strengths are?
MN: SIAS’s project delivery is client focused, and that’s been a success story. Teamwork is a key strength; in a small company you work closely with everybody at some point. Internal communications are very thorough and attention to detail is very high because we are used to interrogating Paramics as part of the development process. As we have been developing Paramics over the years we’ve pushed it to its limits and we’ve always embraced innovation.
MC: We’re at the cusp of no longer being a small company and joining with SYSTRA and JMP. What will SYSTRA and JMP bring to modelling in the UK?
MN: SYSTRA’s reputation is very strong in strategic and demand modelling with their historic involvement in TRIPS which became CUBE. There’s a legacy of innovation within SYSTRA which is similar to SIAS. The company set the benchmark in terms of regional and national modelling and I think that’s still the case.
JMP offers a broader range of experience; they are more multi-disciplinary, with skills on the engineering and environmental side and a good reputation in development planning. There’s no doubt that they are very capable modellers, and they have a complementary skill set in terms of auditing and reviewing.
These complementary skills will be beneficial moving forward; many people with different experiences are now part of the same team.
MC: What would you say is the strength of the combined modelling offer?
MN: There’s an air of ambition and enthusiasm which is starting to become quite infectious and we’re all looking forward to being part of SYSTRA. The sooner we become one, the better. The strengths and skills of each company will be a combined force that can offer a comprehensive modelling service from the strategic level right down to microsimulation, but covering a broad client base as well. Like a multi-disciplinary consultancy on the engineering side; we will be the equivalent on the modelling side.
MC: So greater coverage of all of the different aspects of modelling, where as individual companies we would have found particular areas challenging to deliver.
MN: In SIAS, we’ve always been part of teams, whether leading or supporting a project, so we’re used to that. Becoming a permanent member of a bigger team is not big change from our day to day working for the last 10 – 15 years. The final benefit is a geographical one; SIAS is in recent years a Scottish firm and our greatest activity has been in Scotland. Combining with SYSTRA who are a worldwide organisation, with a significant presence in the UK, and JMP who are also a large organisation in the UK, we will provide good coverage over the whole country.
MC: 1st January 2017 is the formal date for when integration starts but there have already been some collaborations on modelling projects. Is that right?
MN: Since the announcement of the acquisitions, we have collaborated on a number of proposals in Scotland and England and have been discussing many other opportunities. We are actively involved in the development of the Aberdeen Sub Area Model Update and we have also completed a microsimulation modelling project in Hinckley so the lines of communication have been established and that can only be strengthened.
Malcolm Calvert is Paramics Director and Malcolm Neil is an Associate with SIAS, both based in Edinburgh.