Saudi Arabia transforming ‘from investor to thought leader in global tech space’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s proactive leadership and investments in advanced tech solutions have positioned it as a global innovation leader, according to a top official.

During the LEAP 2024, Anant Maheshwari, president and CEO of Honeywell’s Global High Growth Regions portfolio, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia was a “crucial market” for the company, being one of only “three countries globally that is led as an independent market.”

Maheshwari said: “The combination of the Kingdom’s proactive leadership, local technology capabilities, and willingness to invest in advanced solutions makes it a world leader in innovation.”

Reflecting on Honeywell’s role in creating job opportunities and fostering technological innovation within the Kingdom, the CEO highlighted initiatives aimed at talent development.

He said: “As part of our global commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have been able to increase the number of female hires by 50 percent in the last two years, many of whom work on critical industrial programs for the likes of Aramco.”

He added that the joint venture with Aramco is expected to create hundreds of new jobs over the next five years.

Anant Maheshwari, president and CEO of Honeywell’s Global High Growth Regions portfolio. Supplied

Maheshwari underscored the significance of Honeywell’s Global TECPro Program, initiated in 2014, stating: “We brought this initiative to Saudi Arabia to support its transformation into a knowledge-based economy through early career development.”

The 18-month program gives graduates the right tools, knowledge and experience to develop long-term careers with Honeywell.

“This is crucial, because it is the next generation of Saudi engineering talent that will be tasked with working on, and advancing, the automation and sustainability related technologies,” he added.

The CEO emphasized that this initiative will not only benefit the Kingdom’s industries but will also play a broader role in supporting the world’s crucial growth and climate objectives.

“LEAP 2024 is a significant event showcasing technology’s impact on various industries,” Maheshwari commented while explaining Honeywell’s technological capacity.

“As a trusted technology adviser to critical industries worldwide, Honeywell plays a key role in making sectors safer, smarter, and more sustainable through our connected technology portfolio,” he added.

Maheshwari elaborated on Honeywell’s innovative approach, highlighting the company’s use of cutting-edge technologies. “Artificial intelligence and machine learning are two critical technology enablers that we are leveraging across our offerings today,” he explained.

By integrating AI into its portfolio, Honeywell is helping customers take a leap forward on the path to operational autonomy and enabling them to make data-based decisions faster and more accurately, according to the top executive.

The conversation shifted to Honeywell’s collaborative efforts, with Maheshwari shedding light on partnerships that drive both innovation and sustainability. “A great example of this is our joint venture with Aramco, which is called Plant.Digital.”   

He explained: “Plant.Digital takes the best of Aramco’s deep understanding of complex industrial operations and Honeywell’s software and automation know-how to provide virtually any industrial company with a comprehensive, end-to-end plant management solution.”

The executive discussed Honeywell’s recent partnership with Hisense to integrate Solstice refrigerant technology into residential air conditioning units, stating, “It is another example of the benefits that Hydrofluoroolefin, or HFO-based refrigerants, can bring.”

He went on explaining that HFOs typically have Global Warming Potentials that are more than 99 percent lower than the equivalent HFCs – an older technology that has been commonly used in applications like refrigeration.

Maheshwari said: “So, when you think about how many air conditioning units alone that Saudi Arabia has active today, the environmental upside of transitioning to HFO-based technology is clearly aligned to the Kingdom’s climate objectives and indeed those of the entire region.”

Transitioning to Saudi Arabia’s sustainability goals, Maheshwari outlined Honeywell’s commitment to supporting the Kingdom’s efforts.

He said: “There is, of course, a significant global push to implement more efficient energy use and technology.”

The executive added: “While many countries plan to transition from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, security of energy supply must also be maintained. Transition requires sustained, multi-decade investment. It cannot happen overnight.”

The LEAP conference concluded on Thursday, witnessing significant deals in artificial intelligence and innovation localization during its final sessions. Discussions were held on educational tech, retail tech, and fintech, as well as health tech, the fourth industrial revolution, future energy, and smart cities.

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