1st July 2024

Sector profile: Mike Hickson, Managing Director of Defence

Mike Hickson, Sir Robert McAlpine’s newly appointed Managing Director of Defence, shares his vision for the sector and his ambitions for the year ahead.

Sir Robert McAlpine has a proud history of working in the Defence sector.  

Recently, we commemorated D-Day’s 80th anniversary and the instrumental role that the company played in both the conception and construction of the Mulberry Harbours, two artificial port facilities designed to supply and support the allied forces following the landings in Normandy.  

In his role, Mike is keen to explore the opportunities that exist in Defence, leveraging our culture and our legacy of delivering technical excellence.  

Journey into construction 

Mike entered his working life as an insurance broker, but he soon realised that sitting behind an office desk was not for him. This prompted him to move abroad in search of adventure and fulfilment. After spending some time working in New Zealand, he embarked on an international motorcycle journey from Australia to the UK, travelling through a myriad of countries and across oceans. 

“But that wasn’t quite the end for me – I soon took off to America and rode my motorcycle across 36 States, before making my way to South America and Canada. That was my ‘university’ experience!”  

With his thirst for international travel not quite quenched, Mike then decided to join the British Army, in which he spent the following 30 years. It was here that Mike’s role as a logistician first began; he commanded in every rank from 2nd Lieutenant to Brigadier, was the lead logistician for UK operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, was Commander Logistics for the invasion of Iraq in 2004, and he finished his career as Director of the Royal Logistic Corps. 

Upon leaving the Armed Forces, Mike initially worked for Fluor as the Logistics Director for the expansion of an oilfield in Kazakhstan, before joining HS2 Limited, initially as the Logistics Director, and then as the Programme Director for the Central section Main Works Civils contracts.  For the last 3 years Mike was the Land and Property Director for all Phases of the HS2 Project.  It was as the HS2 Programme Director for the Align JV that Mike first got to know Sir Robert McAlpine. 

“I was initially a client of McAlpine’s – working with Tony Gates, Executive Managing Director of Infrastructure. What I saw within the business was not only a real commitment to technical excellence, but also values and ways of working that really resonated with me.” 

Soon after, when Mike found himself in search of a new career challenge, SRM immediately sprang to mind.  

3 months in: a reflection on the role 

Now coming up to the first 100 days of tenure, Mike shares that it has been an exciting opportunity to lead the business’s Defence sector and build upon its rich and varied heritage. He mentions previous projects like the transformation of Colchester Garrison and the building of the  US Embassy in Nine Elms, London 

Mike is keen to blaze a trail for Sir Robert McAlpine within Defence, identifying opportunities and targeting areas where the business can flourish.  

Our technical expertise is second to none, and this shines through in the quality of our work. From this I would like to build an enduring pipeline of projects where we can learn, grow and improve along with our clients; building long lasting relationships. As a family-owned company, no one understands the value in forming these bonds better than us.

Mike Hickson Managing Director of Defence

Sir Robert McAlpine is currently delivering a number of technically complex projects that resonate very well with some of the more challenging, secure, projects that the Defence sector is going to target. Equally, we can demonstrate our ability to deliver at scale using  off-site manufacturing and modular building to improve efficiency and flexibility.  The Align JV has recently completed the 3-year excavation under the Chilterns, resulting in two modularly built tunnels spanning 16km; and currently the Colne Valley viaduct, which consists of one thousand 140-tonne segments, all slightly different in shape, and made at a purpose-built temporary factory on site, is nearing completion.  Complexity and scale are a trademark for Sir Robert McAlpine, and that feeds very well into what Defence requires.  Additionally, to further enhance our ability to take on projects with high level security requirements, we have taken several key people across the business through security clearance approvals. 

 

Future opportunities and sector outlook  

Looking ahead into the wider market outlook for Defence, Mike is positive. 


The reality of the situation is that there is plenty of work in Defence. We just need to get out there and secure work on projects that are right for us and match our areas of expertise. This will allow us to deliver the top-quality work we are known for, prioritising collaboration and early contractor engagement within and throughout the supply chain

Read more From Mike Hickson, Managing Director of Defence.
Mike Hickson

Mike Hickson, Managing Director of Defence.

The reality of the situation is that there is plenty of work in Defence. We just need to get out there and secure work on projects that are right for us and match our areas of expertise.  This will allow us to deliver the top-quality work we are known for, prioritising collaboration and early contractor engagement within and throughout the supply chain – it is key that we work with the client and supply chain when we begin any project to allow us to develop, design and build together.

We have set up a Defence sector in a time rife with opportunity; I am excited to continue driving forward Sir Robert McAlpine’s history of excellence in this area.

Close From Mike Hickson, Managing Director of Defence.

  • Defence

    For over 155 years, Sir Robert McAlpine, a UK family owned business, has been a trusted partner, delivering major civil and defence infrastructure projects, and sensitive, high security projects, across the United Kingdom.

    Find out more

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