Global Innovators: David Wilson, CIO and Other Bechtel Leaders on Digital Transformation

This week’s Global Summit offers conversations with leaders fostering vibrant startup communities in their home countries, while also forging strong ties around the world. The result is a global marketplace of ideas, companies, and technologies propelling the industry into an unprecedented period of technology-leveraged gains in productivity and sustainability. One leading player in this mix is United States-based, Bechtel. We featured Bechtel in our report on innovation in the US Marketplace published this past May, in conjunction with our US Summit. Below is an excerpt from that report, updated to include additional interviews and discussions about innovation with Bechtel leaders.

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About: Founded in 1898, Bechtel is a trusted engineering, procurement, construction, and project management partner to industry and government. With more than 38,000 colleagues around the world, Bechtel specializes in delivering commercial infrastructure projects; power and communications facilities; mining and metals smelters and refineries; oil, gas, and chemicals facilities; and nuclear, security, and environmental services for U.S. and allied governments. 

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Bechtel’s Innovation Leadership

Empowering the ideation process across the enterprise: Rapid delivery of mature innovations revolve around a structured internal process that tests assumptions, integrates solutions, and ensures a steady stream of diverse ideas.

“When innovation is truly adopted as a value, everyone in the organization will be encouraged to take ownership and an active interest in its evolution.”– David Wilson, Chief Innovation Officer, Bechtel

David Wilson Bechtel Innovation Head at Summit 2018
Watch: David Wilson, Bechtel Chief Innovation Officer Talking Bechtel’s Innovation Vision.

Innovation in Action

Bechtel Innovate was created in 2016 as an incubator for finding and funding new, disruptive ideas generated by people across the company.  To-date more than 3,500 ideas have come through Bechtel Innovate, and the company has accelerated and deployed more than 250 high-impact innovations to projects around the globe.
One of those successes: Live-StrOM.


Using tugs and barges to transport large, complex modules to construction sites, Bechtel found that the larger modules frequently blocked the captain’s forward view. In these instances, safe navigation required a costly second boat or an additional person stationed on deck to communicate with the captain. Bechtel sought an innovative, cost-effective solution that could provide significant value and improve safety.


Bechtel collaborated with a technology integrator and two tug and barge operators in an iterative process for the design, prototyping, piloting, and testing of a solution – known today as Live Streaming On-board Monitor, or Live-StrOM. The Live-StrOM system combines a thermal camera, audio recording technology, and spatial intelligence and detection technology to provides tug captains with a complete and unobstructed view in front of the barge.


The sophisticated camera system, which is adaptively mounted on the deck of a barge, has eliminated the need for expensive assist tugs when cargo heights block a captain’s forward view. Live-StrOM sensors also penetrate darkness and heavy fog to provide tug captains with a better view of the waterway than previously achievable. In addition to significant cost savings, use of the Live-StrOM system has improved safety by providing the data needed for accurate navigation.

Innovation Across the Enterprise: Several Other Ways Bechtel has Positioned For Its Digital Future.

Bechtel, DPR, Clune talk Tech in Safety
Watch: Bechtel, DPR, and Clune Construction Leaders Talk About Leveraging Technology for Enhanced Safety.
  • As the video above shows, leveraged technology to gather data on jobsites that improves both safety and productivity.
  • Adapted the widely used Technology Readiness Level (TRL) framework, originally developed by NASA, to provide a common language and visibility across the enterprise relative to the maturity and readiness of emerging technologies.
  • Formalized a culture that encourages and empowers Bechtel people to experiment and develop new solutions in order to move the company forward at an accelerated rate.
  • Through physical prototyping, piloting, and deploying at scale, the ideation lifecycle fosters innovations that deliver significant value to Bechtel projects and customers.

Smart Cities and Energy Infrastructure’s Transformation

In addition to Bechtel’s work on the transformation of its engineering and construction process, Bechtel is also actively at work around the world on smart cities and alternative energy projects. In the video below, watch Peter Nelson, Bechtel Director of Infrastructure at last August’s BuiltWorlds Infrastructure Conference present Bechtel’s involvement in and commitment to smart infrastructure projects around the world.

Peter Nelson, Bechtel Enterprises, Infrastructure 2020

2020 US Innovators Report
2020 US Innovators Report

This article first appeared as a profile in our May US Summit report on US Industry Innovators and has been updated to include presentation made and information gathered since. Click here or on the report image to access the full report. Unlike other markets around the world, the US is characterized by more than 700,000 contractors, as well as engineers, architects, and owner/developers that are embracing digital transformation on a variety of levels. Different sized companies and companies operating in different places in the value chain, each approaching digital transformation differently, offering uniquely valuable perspectives on the changes taking place and strategies for the future.