SVP INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS PRODUCTS
Arja appears in the Top 100
US Business Leaders Magazine
Arja Talakar is leading the global product business of Siemens Energy Industrial Applications, based in Houston, which provides the most cutting-edge technologies to global energy, oil and gas, infrastructure and industrial customers. With nearly a billion people still lacking access to electricity and the urgency for climate action becoming more amplified, Arja and his global leadership team are continuously advancing capabilities and positioning a world-class portfolio that addresses market priorities such as decarbonization as well as the growing demand for green fuels, such as hydrogen. He is an industry veteran with profound knowledge of the changing skills requirements of the industry—and a deep commitment to businesses that benefit society. Now, by bringing together the most innovative minds in his team and infusing a thorough understanding of the changing market, Arja is leveraging key trends along the energy transition.
“The integration of highly efficient gas turbines with electrically driven trains has been providing combined heat and power solutions in a way that reduces the carbon emissions of applications by over thirty percent,” Arja says. With such innovations, the company’s product business has been positioning for the very attractive growth opportunities in the hydrogen value chain. Today, the business provides solutions for all hydrogen feed options, whether grey (hydrogen produced from natural gas), blue (hydrogen produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage) or green (hydrogen produced from renewables). In addition, its capabilities include transportation and compression technologies for hydrogen pipelines and storage, as well as efficient gas turbines that operate on up to 100% hydrogen.
Previously, Arja was leading Siemens Saudi Arabia, a joint venture between Siemens and the E.A. Juffali and Brothers group, and among the largest technology and engineering companies in the Middle East. Arja and his team succeeded in securing and executing some of the world’s largest infrastructure projects in the fields of oil and gas, petrochemicals, power generation and transmission, metro and railway projects, health care and digitalization. Furthermore, his deep insight as a thought leader and trusted adviser to key decision-makers and stakeholders led to several groundbreaking initiatives and significant original contributions which continue to drive the localization of value chains and the advancement of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). These include the development of the most advanced gas turbine manufacturing facility, which is a first for the Middle East, as well as the introduction of vocational education, based on the German dual model. In fact, this initiative saw the start of a massive training program with partners that culminated in qualifying the first generation of Saudi Arabian youth as gas turbine experts who built the first ever “Made in KSA” gas turbine in 2016.
In addition, Arja’s engagements with customers and partners prompted the implementation of the Siemens Mechatronics curriculum in the Saudi Arabian education system, as well as an advanced technology exchange program that allowed young people to access cutting-edge technologies in global Research and Development (R&D) centers. Furthermore, he led the establishment of the first world-class digitalization center in Riyadh and leveraged his strong relationships with top universities to establish advanced digital curricula, thereby preparing students for the future world of work.
Arja has always been driven by an unwavering commitment to business which benefits society. While at the helm of Siemens Saudi Arabia, he frequently exchanged knowledge and insights in high-level engagements with the focus on the transforming energy landscape and its implications for society, as well as shaping smarter solutions for growing cities. As a highly skilled door opener, navigator and deal maker, he brought diverse stakeholders together and played a key role in authoring several studies which became inputs into policy-making decisions along Saudi Arabia’s energy transition and strategies for smarter and more resilient cities.
“R&D took on an entirely different dimension over the past year, with society prioritizing vaccines against COVID-19 and businesses looking for innovative ways to serve customers,” he explains. Arja’s strategic orientation to R&D, and its role in addressing society’s priorities, allowed him to leverage several key trends with customers, policy makers and universities, thereby clearly articulating and aligning priorities in several sectors and creating sustainable approaches such as the use of clean gas for power generation and establishing the right energy mix, including renewables.
Arja is no stranger to the proverbial “road less traveled” and during his career he has been spearheading several original contributions of major significance to society and industry. He personally coordinated the development of a holistic proposition—which has never been done before—to advance industrialization in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. By positioning Siemens as the highest value provider to Saudi Arabian society, he and his handpicked expert team worked side-by-side with several ministers and their teams to define the best investment framework, business models and implementation strategies to drive sustainable local manufacturing, skills development and job creation in the fields of power, transport, industry, healthcare and digitalization.
Arja began his career in the fields of aviation and turbine technology and was responsible for the design and startup of several first-time applications with a strong focus on the U.S. market. In addition, he was deeply engaged in process automation technologies and being part of a technology and innovation group, he was responsible for the development and launch of the world’s first web-based process automation system. Arja holds an MBA degree from IMD Business School in Switzerland, and an Engineering degree from the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany. He is an avid reader and has recently been publishing articles from his LinkedIn account, providing personal perspectives on an array of technology-related topics.
Pushing the Boundaries: Electrification of the Aviation Industry
History remembers aviation pioneers like Otto Lilienthal and the Wright brothers, who at the end of the nineteenth century turned mankind’s ancient dream of flying into reality with their earliest prototypes of aircraft. By the end of the twentieth century, a global quest was underway to realize the vision of flying an aircraft powered by solar power—and Arja stepped up to the challenge.
Many institutes and establishments took on this challenge and designed new concepts for harnessing solar energy by storing and converting it to propel an airplane. Arja found the idea of designing and building the world’s first solar airplane fascinating and joined the icaré project, a collaboration between IMAB Braunschweig and the University of Stuttgart. He and his team worked together non-stop and pushed every bit and piece of technology. Despite several setbacks, they overcame the obstacles, and, in 1996, a year and half later, their vision became reality.
An airplane with a new eight-meter fuselage design and a wingspan of 25 meters, with photovoltaic cells covering the wings and tail surfaces was pushed out of the hangar and met all the airworthiness requirements of a conventional airplane from rollout to landing. The team designed it in such a way that a new electrical motor was fitted, which works along the principles of trans-rapid linear motor and permanent magnet technologies. The maiden flight of icaré was the culmination of all aspects of design and technology working together for success. After the maiden flight, the test pilot summed it up saying, “It is like being pushed by angels.”
Arja vividly remembers the enormous time pressure and magnitude of the challenge—and the tremendous sense of fulfillment. “This major accomplishment with the dynamic and creative icaré team not only awakened a new technological chapter for mankind, but also advanced the quest to address a major global challenge—air pollution,” he says.
About the company:
Siemens Energy, headquartered in Berlin, is a global team of more than 91,000 employees across 90 countries. The company focuses on meeting the world’s growing energy demand and ensuring climate protection. By deploying the best of its 150-year legacy, and pushing the boundaries of what is possible, the company strives for sustainability along the decarbonization journey, remaining innovation-centered on future technologies, and transforming with future-focused offerings, portfolio and mindset. Siemens Energy prides itself in shaping the energy of tomorrow with a strong commitment to making sustainable, reliable and affordable energy a reality.
Siemens Industrial Applications brings together best-in-class technologies of Demag, Alstom Industrial Turbines and the Rolls Royce Aero-derivative businesses, representing a string of acquisitions by Siemens to comprehensively address the industry in its entirety.
Senior Vice President
Industrial Applications Products