Defence-sector companies are always seeking new ways to diversify, and foreign partnerships are proving to be a valuable resource. Defence & Security Systems International speaks with Olivier Richard, CEGELEC Défense’s marketing and business manager, to see where the focus for future development lies, and what products are driving new demand.

How has CEGELEC Défense’s business strategy changed in recent times?

Olivier Richard: For the past few years, CEGELEC Défense, the main provider for the integration of command and control capabilities into deployable and autonomous shelters for the French armed forces and Gendarmerie, has had a lot of success on the national ground, but in a highly competitive industry, it has become essential for us to turn to new markets. Though we have good international visibility, it’s an area we have earmarked for growth. Since the start of 2014, we’ve begun to apply this new development strategy.

We’re looking to build relations and integrate with local content through sponsorships, joint ventures, technology transfers, production contracts and other partnerships. As we are currently taking our first steps into export markets, there are a number of challenges to overcome. These potential new markets are a catalyst for the company, but there is no clear view yet on how it will modify the kinetics of development.

It is unknown just how considerably it will change the face of CEGELEC Défense. We are at the initial stages, and there are a few ingredients missing before we have a better idea of what to expect and how to control it.

What are your customers looking for at present, and are there any areas of heightened demand?

Our prospects attach a lot of importance to the quality of the product and the references we can provide. CEGELEC Défense easily fulfils these needs; our main products – bi-expandable and multi-expandable shelters – have been in use for many years within the French Air Force and the French Gendarmerie, in various configurations; command posts, crisis-management centre, air-traffic control, medical applications and CBRN solutions, for example.

The French Air Force uses this equipment when operating outside of national boundaries, in Afghanistan and Mali for example, while the French Gendarmerie uses it as a planification and crisis-management centre deployed for major events, such as G7 and the public celebrations of the 80th anniversary of the allied invasion in Normandy.

The main products that have experienced heightened demand are the air-transportable deployable command post and crises-management centres; medical applications as mobile field hospitals; air-transportable large-capability water potabilisation solutions – up to 400m3 a day per unit – and CBRN applications in air transportable bideployable shelters.

Are there any new markets that you have recently broken into, and what is driving demand in these areas?

The market CEGELEC Défense is focusing on is the GCC market and countries close to it, like Morocco, Egypt and Jordan – though it would be premature, and possibly counterproductive, to communicate which countries are interested in our products.

Demand is driven by our multi-expandable shelter, which, at present, has no equivalent worldwide. It offers, from a 20in ISO-standard container, a deployed surface of 80m2 in which almost anything can be integrated into and customised to the client’s final specifications. The product is not new, though, and is combat proven, as demonstrated by the French Air Force in Afghanistan.

What’s also driving the demand is the high quality and comfort provided by these shelters for the operator and for the equipment, added to the fact that they are extremely tactical and quickly deployed – it would typically take an hour for four people to deploy the multi-expandable product.

What future developments do you expect to see in the industry and your company?

The future developments we are expecting would be the increase in local representation through distributors, selected sponsors and workshops for local assembly. We hope what we do see will be largely linked to all the actions we’re carrying out in export markets. We’ve selectively planted a lot of seeds in fertilised ground; we just need a bit of rain before they germinate.

What areas for growth have you targeted in the future?

We will keep the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) as a major target since we want to establish long-term relations and a presence there. Prospective new areas are defined yearly, and we could start to look at some countries in Africa and Central Asia. We’re careful to follow a structured strategy though, rather than chasing all possible opportunities. We hunt, we’re not hunted.

The Group VINCI employs 193,000 people and is present in over 100 countries, through a network of over 2,500 companies. It is strongly present in the Middle East − VINCI/VINCI Energies (CEGELEC)/VINCI Construction − with 13 companies in the United Arab Emirates, five in Qatar, four in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, three in Bahrain and two in Oman.

A subsidiary of VINCI Energies, an international group with a turnover of €9 billion and 64,000 employees, Cegelec Défense has consolidated its reputation among clients and partners as a major player, designer and integrator in the fields of defence and security.

Historically, Cegelec’s core skills offer solutions and services for industry, infrastructure and real estate through five core businesses:

  • energy and electricity
  • automation, instrumentation and control
  • information technology
  • HVAC
  • maintenance and services.

Cegelec Défense based in Toulouse, France, benefits from the expertise of three autonomous companies:

  • Cegelec Défense Solutions & Services (multipurpose expandable shelters, technical shelters, utilities and support equipment)
  • Cegelec Défense Infrastructures & Réseaux (Strategic communication network infrastructures, protection of high-sensitive sites)
  • Cegelec Marine (maintenance of surface vessels and submarines).

Cegelec Défense Solutions & Services mobilises its skills as an integrator of solutions and systems to fulfil the projection requirements of forces and humanitarian relief campaigns (a dual approach involving military and civilians):

  • pre-equipped expandable shelters: command posts (C4ISR), medical and CBRN applications (mobile field hospitals, biological laboratories, decontamination modules)
  • water potabilisation and wastewater treatment units
  • utilities and support: power generation, mobile air conditioning units, etc.