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Decade of delivery

As Jacobs reaches a milestone 50 years in Ireland, eolas Magazine sits down with Senior Vice President and General Manager, Kate Kenny, to talk infrastructure delivery in support of economic growth.

Within her remit, Kenny leads over 8,000 people in the delivery of critical buildings, power, transport, water, environmental, and urban and placemaking solutions, utilising knowledge and innovation from across Jacobs’ global organisation.

Summarising the experience after she ascended to her current position in October 2022, Kenny recognises the “enormous privilege” of working in a role which spans all Jacobs’ buildings and infrastructure markets across the whole of Europe.

“Evaluating the economic pace of the different countries in which we operate has been very insightful. As well as how they vary in terms of ambition and investment, and how we can create solutions across different markets,” she observes.

“As we get into this decade of delivery, infrastructure is a huge priority for Ireland…”
Kate Kenny, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Jacobs

Strategic priorities

In Ireland, Jacobs is the single largest provider of engineering, procurement, construction management and commissioning, qualification, and validation services.

“We are incredibly proud to have been in Ireland for 50 years now and 2024 is a key year for us. Ireland is the second geography that Jacobs invested in outside of the US, so it has been and remains a critical priority,” Kenny remarks.

“If you walked into Jacobs’ Dublin office now and compared it with the original office of 1974, the contrast in representation would be stark. Becoming an increasingly diverse business is advantageous to Jacobs’ clients. They are working with project teams which are more reflective of the societies which they are trying to serve, and that generally produces better solutions and better outcomes.”

Emphasising also the “diverse array of talent” exhibited by its Irish cohort of 1,200 people across offices in Dublin, Belfast, and Cork, the Senior Vice President indicates that Jacobs continues to recruit locally, which “is a recognition of the strength of inward investment into Ireland”.

Following the Covid pandemic, Jacobs has experienced significant skill flow shifts across the entire organisation, which has a global workforce of 60,000. “Post-Covid, the boundaries have blurred about how that workforce is utilised to deliver solutions. Not only is it possible to draw in project insight from around the globe and apply that experience in Ireland, but Jacobs’ skillset in Ireland is in turn informing the development of infrastructure elsewhere,” she says.

“As we get into this decade of delivery, infrastructure is a huge priority for Ireland and that means keeping pace with the economic development and ambitions of the country. Jacobs must continue to enable Ireland to achieve these ambitions.

“Jacobs has been undertaking an enormous amount of work in transport infrastructure and similarly in water infrastructure in Ireland. From a European perspective, it has been extraordinary to see what the country has achieved in recent years, relative to its European counterparts,” Kenny remarks.

Jacobs’ work also goes beyond infrastructure and includes a major role in the development of Ireland as a centre of excellence for complex industrial manufacturing, in particular supporting the exceptional growth of Ireland’s life sciences and semiconductor sectors.

Recent projects

Over the last 20 years, Jacobs has helped lead the development of national infrastructure in Ireland through its support for clients, which include the National Transport Authority (NTA), Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), Cork County Council, and Iarnród Éireann.

By way of example, Jacobs was selected by the NTA as a consultant for both the Dublin BusConnects and Cork BusConnects programmes, which Kenny describes as “a great success story”. Jacobs’ role included preparing environmental impact assessment reports and network and information security for each of the schemes’ statutory planning advice services; the construction strategy; and the transport assessment. In Cork, Jacobs will also support the preliminary business case preparation for the overall BusConnects programme.

Similarly, for over 12 years, Jacobs has supported TII through the delivery phases of the Dunkettle Interchange project which was completed in February 2024. “We have been involved in the Dunkettle Interchange from design concept, through the planning process, and most recently have been the employer’s representative,” she says, adding: “Many of the team have worked on the project for the full duration.”

The project entailed a major reconfiguration of the junction between the M8, N25, and N40 roads. The new configuration is signal-free and has improved user experience, safety, and connectivity in support of economic growth and better social outcomes for the surrounding communities.

Jacobs is also a technical adviser to Cork County Council for the M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy project which will link the N40 South Ring Road to the Port of Cork and is scheduled for completion by 2030.

Meanwhile, in 2022, Iarnród Éireann commissioned Jacobs for detailed design and planning services, including environmental assessments and statutory submissions, for the East Coast Railway Infrastructure Protection Projects (ECRIPP) programme. Given the local environmental sensitivities, Jacobs’ support for what is the largest coastal protection scheme in northwest Europe is specifically focused on environmentally led design.

Emphasising the “huge influence of sustainability” across infrastructure, Kenny outlines how this trend is materialising in the transport sector.

“We are observing major investment in active travel and public transport which is aimed at creating a behavioural shift which removes traffic from roads, lowers emissions, and ultimately establishes more sustainable societies,” she indicates.

Upcoming projects

Looking ahead, Jacobs is cognisant of the pipeline of investment priorities for transport infrastructure across the whole island as outlined in National Development Plan 2021-2030.

“There is significant investment in transport infrastructure through Iarnród Éireann, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, and the National Transport Authority – whether in the delivery of Dart+, electrification of the rail network, or active travel infrastructure.”

Likewise, Kenny emphasises the opportunity in collaborative cross-border investment. “The connections between north and south – both road and rail – are fundamental to the growth and economic synergy of Ireland as a whole,” she says.

Water and energy infrastructure are also a significant focus. “There are huge demands around water, particularly moving towards a more sustainable set of outcomes. Uisce Éireann is incredibly ambitious for its sustainability objectives. We are also undertaking collaboration with EirGrid and other organisations around renewable energy and achieving Ireland energy transition ambition by 2050.”


Outlining the significance of its relationship-based approach to its clients, Kenny indicates Jacobs has cultivated a deep relationship with each of its clients in order to comprehensively understand their challenges. “We are not transactional. There is a reason why we call ourselves a solutions provider; we are outcomes focused,” she adds.

At the same time, how these outcomes are delivered is equally important to Jacobs as to what it delivers. “We are a values-based organisation operating in an environment built on trust, diversity, and inclusion. Through the delivery of infrastructure, Jacobs seeks to create social equity opportunities from the design process through to end of construction.

“This includes creating opportunities to upskill local communities both during the lifetime of a project and once it becomes operational,” the Jacobs Senior Vice President illustrates.

“As a result, the consistent feedback I receive from clients demonstrates that they trust us to deliver, they understand that we have the best technical talent, and they also like our culture. Clients enjoy working with us. Over the last 18 months, it has been very reassuring to hear that feedback.”

Meeting demand

Discussing how infrastructure delivery meets demand amid Ireland’s relatively high socioeconomic growth and a tight labour market, Kenny observes: “It is a sign of Ireland’s success; that you need to have infrastructure that can keep pace with economic development.”

Elaborating, she makes two observations. Firstly, “to be in this position is an exciting time for Ireland”, and secondly, “we must move away from the perspective that more people are required for delivery”. As such, Jacobs is embracing digitalisation.

“As an alternative to relying on a constrained workforce, we are determining how to best incorporate emerging technologies to support delivery.

“Not long ago, we had draughts people manually completing drawings which evolved into digital design via Building Information Modelling (BIM). We must continue to harness these technologies. For instance, we are now looking at generative AI designs.”

Reflecting on developments in the last two decades, Kenny advocates for a “plan slow, deliver fast” approach to infrastructure, maintaining that “we must invest more effort upfront, spending more time in planning to deliver huge advances in productivity”.

Simultaneously, she contends that having a culture of transparency within Jacobs means that personnel are not afraid to say when something goes wrong, typically resolving problems more quickly.

“That psychological safety is very important,” Kenny suggests, elaborating: “One of the big risks is determining point estimates incorrectly very early on, trying to deliver it quickly, and failing. Instead, it must be accepted that there are unknowns, operate within ranges, and then take time to arrive at a more realistic estimate.”

Emerging trends

Describing 2024 as “the year of elections”, with over 50 nations going to the polls, not including a potential general election in Ireland, Kenny believes that a prevailing theme for 2024 will be political uncertainty and the potential for change.

“Across Europe, we are observing governments commit to enabling economic growth. Ireland is at the leading edge of this trend in terms of long-term commitment and ambition. We know that infrastructure is an economic stimulant, so it is important to recognise that,” she states.

At the same time, with the tangible impacts of climate change beginning to be felt across Europe, the Jacobs Senior Vice President believes that “the sustainability agenda has come to the fore”, creating demand for new leading-edge solutions.
“Consequently, this context has blurred the challenges faced by our clients such as local authorities, transport departments, and utilities who have now begun to coalesce around potential solutions, including for instance, determining how processes around water treatment could be utilised to create renewable energy opportunities.”


Describing the first 50 years in Ireland as “a huge success”, from both a business and a socioeconomic perspective, Kenny is determined to ensure that “Jacobs continues to be a key player as we enter the decade of delivery”.

“Our outcomes focus will be key. Alongside the work that we have undertaken directly, we actively track how much value Jacobs is delivering, alongside our impact on the economy, the society, and the country as a whole.

“To reiterate, we have a significant workload in transport and water, but also in areas that we have traditionally been less involved in, including the built environment and urban development. Being part of the energy transition is really important for us too. Ultimately, while we aim to grow considerably but most importantly, we want to deliver a positive and tangible socioeconomic impact.”

Profile: Kate Kenny

In her role as Senior Vice President and General Manager, with Jacobs, Kenny and her team bring together knowledge and innovation from across the entire organisation to challenge the way it solves problems and shapes the next generation of solutions for its clients in a variety of markets. Solutions that are better for the environment, better for people, and better for the economy.

Prior to her current role, Kenny led Growth and Sales for Jacobs in Europe. With over 20 years’ experience in engineering consultancy, she has worked on the business cases for major UK infrastructure programmes including Crossrail, High Speed Two, the expansion of Heathrow and Stansted airports, and the Silvertown Tunnel in London.

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