Interview with Sébastien Hugo, Associate and General Manager for Australia & New Caledonia
Could you tell us more about the history of Néodyme and its core activity?
The company was created in France, in 2004, by 5 engineers from different backgrounds, mostly process safety engineers but also management system coordinator and environmental advisor. Néodyme provides highly skilled services in occupational health and safety, environmental protection and process safety in order to support our clients in offering a safer workplace for their employees, reducing their impact on the environment and operating safely their equipment, through the whole life cycle of their projects or plants. Head-quartered in Tours, the company has now 5 offices and 85 employees in France. Our activity, originally concentrated to the energy and nuclear sectors, quickly extended to the oil & gas, mining and chemical industries. Goro Nickel in New Caledonia was our first mining project. It is at this occasion, working with Foster Wheeler, that Néodyme came first to Australia. After several months spent on the project, it became clear that there was an opportunity to open a local branch in New Caledonia.
Néodyme New Caledonia, created in 2011, employed up to 25 people during the commissioning phase of Goro Nickel, and has now 10 permanent staff. As a consequence of the business expansion to the French territory, some connections naturally grew with Australia and the idea of creating an Australian office started emerging. It was a step-by-step process (including several business trips to Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and Gladstone) that finally led to the creation of Néodyme Australia in 2013. Our first year of activity in Australia, from mid-2014 to mid-2015, was quite successful, with contracts signed with GHD and Veolia, but our progress was hindered by the slowdown in the oil & gas and mining sectors, which prompted an internal restructuration with the departure of our General Manager for Australia Yoann Secret and my arrival as General Manager for Australia & New Caledonia.
Benefiting from our experience worldwide (Néodyme has worked on projects in at least 20 different countries in Africa and the Middle East, as well as the Philippines and Australia - with the Shell Prelude FLNG Project), we provide a large range of services to hazardous industries, from design to end-of-life of facilities mainly in the oil & gas, nuclear, mining, and energy sectors but not only as we already work for water treatment facilities, chemical facilities and manufacturing facilities for the luxury industry. About 60% of our activity consists in providing highly skilled engineering resources to our customers, mainly process safety engineers, environmental engineers, permitting engineers, nuclear safety engineers, and occupational health and safety engineers. Another 30% of our activity consists in delivering turn-key studies such as environmental impact assessment, quantitative risk assessment, hazardous area classification, hazardous phenomenon modelling, permitting application, and safety engineering package (providing safety concepts – firefighting, gas & fire philosophies and design). The last 10% of our activity consists in training and support such as risk assessment facilitation, process safety and environmental management system implementation, workplace inspection, audits, regulatory compliance review and tailored training session facilitation.
Can you describe your personal background and your role within Néodyme?
I studied at the National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) in Rouen and graduated with an engineering degree in chemistry and chemical process. I then did a specialisation in process safety management at uni and graduated with a master degree in process safety management. After 2 years working for one of the major listed consulting company in France, providing risk assessments and modelling for the oil & gas, energy and military facilities in France and North Africa, four of my colleagues and I decided to leave to set up our own company in 2004.
I was personally in charge of developing and managing our Paris’ office, which totalled 30 engineers after 5 years. While still developing our Parisian office, I travelled to Australia to support the Goro Nickel project and that’s when I fell in love with the country. With the full support of my associates, it then became both a professional and personal project to set-up Néodyme Australia. Needed in France to oversee the increased activity of our Parisian office, it took quite a while to be ready. Before moving ahead, we also wanted our Caledonian activities to be stabilised and finally when it was time to move I had to deal with some family issues which delayed my departure even further. However, I am now due to arrive to settle in Brisbane early July this year.
General Manager for Australia & New Caledonia, I will keep overseeing our Paris office activities for a transition period of 12 months. My main duties will be business development and management but I will remain involved in technical studies and do field missions if necessary - at least at the beginning -, doing hazardous area classification, compliance review and facilitating risk assessment.
How do you envisage the future of your company and how can FACCI help you achieve your objectives?
We are optimistic for the future. Néodyme grew from 5 to 100 employees in 10 years and both France and New Caledonian branches are stable. With a turnover of AUD 15 m, we now intend to expand further internationally and to use our Brisbane office has a hub to develop our activity to the Asia-Pacific region. Due to the slowdown of the oil & gas and mining sectors in Australia, we will also seek to diversify our business to the renewable energies, transport & infrastructure and defence sectors.
The French-Australian Chamber of Commerce in Queensland has been a great support to us already and we particularly appreciate the networking opportunities, introductions and referrals. It is a great way to access a network of professionals Australia-wide and to be honest it saves us months of business development. We look forward in particular to attend the Chamber’s Energy & Resources, Transport & Infrastructure and Aerospace, Defence & Aviation Industry Series to make new connections. I will of course also be attending your Bastille Day Business Breakfast.
For more information, please visit Néodyme's website: www.neodyme.fr/en-GB/.
Interview conducted on 17 May 2016 by Claire Dupré.
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