Project Management

Most Influential Projects – Regional Leaders’ Top Picks

26 Jan 2023
Kerman Kasad
The Most Influential Projects list features inspiring projects from around the world that are changing the ways we live, work and play. In a recent blog post, we highlighted select projects that impressed PMI’s executive leadership team. This time, we turn to our regional Managing Directors to hear their top picks.

The Chapel of Sound in ChinaFrom climate change and infrastructure development to wildlife conservation efforts and more – these are just some of the projects that PMI’s regional Managing Directors have chosen to highlight from PMI’s fourth annual Most Influential Projects list. 

With projects spanning a wide range of industries and global regions, it’s not surprising that the directors’ choices also reflect their area of geographic focus. The projects, after all, address significant issues that affect their lives or that are a source of regional pride. 

Here are the projects they’ve chosen and the reason why the projects made such a big impression.  

Oceanix Busan  

Ben Breen, Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Global Head of Construction 

UN-Habitat is partnering with Busan Metropolitan City and sustainable tech firm Oceanix to envision a bold, new approach to coastal cities: floating, flood-proof cities. In April, project partners unveiled plans for a “modular maritime neighborhood” that would extend the South Korean port city of Busan into the ocean and house up to 12,000 people. Equipped with solar power, greenhouses that expand and contract based on need and extensive public spaces to foster a sense of community, these kinds of oceanic outposts could offer a sustainable future for coastal residents worldwide. 

Why I Chose This Project: Since the beginning of time, coastal communities have provided people with access to food, travel and other necessities for community survival. As we search for new ways to not only create resilient coastal communities but also ensure these communities are future-proofed for the long haul, it inspires me to see project professionals not only innovate for a more sustainable future, but also do what previously would have been unthinkable: develop and deploy a complex, multi-faceted coastal community that can weather any storm. When project leaders combine their innovative ideas with advancements in technology, there truly is nothing that is impossible. 

Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing 

Brantlee Underhill, Managing Director, North America 

For the mountain lion community in Southern California, the 100-year-old highway that cuts through their natural habitat strands animal populations on either side, disrupting their ecosystems and sometimes their ability to survive. The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing – which had its groundbreaking on Earth Day this year (April 2022) – will be a lush, lion-friendly walkway that spans the highway, providing a path between the protected lands on either side. Backed by federal funding and a growing interest for projects that can reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is particularly high profile and highly anticipated. 

Why I Chose This Project: With the enhancements in urban development across the United States, we are inevitably forced to reckon with the fact that our efforts to transform infrastructure and human mobility come at a cost: that of wildlife communities. I am inspired by the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing because the project leaders not only found a way to transform the livelihood of wildlife in Southern California with minimal disruption to human mobility, but there is also the positive side effect of helping to eliminate collisions due to animals crossing the busy interstate. This project underscores the importance of understanding our impacts on every aspect of the world and working to correct any mistakes made in the past for the betterment of people, societies, animals and the world at large. 

Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa 

George Asamani, Managing Director, Sub-Saharan Africa 

Data science advancements have the potential to transform health outcomes across Africa, which currently shoulders an outsized share of the global burden of disease. To accelerate impact, the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa and the National Institutes of Health in the United States have joined forces on a five-year, US$75 million project to establish a data science research and training network across the continent. The Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa program focuses on everything from using data to boost pandemic preparedness to identifying women at risk for poor pregnancy outcomes to improving medical diagnostic accuracy.  

Why I Chose This Project: It is evident that digital transformation can not only bolster efforts to innovate and expand opportunities across industries and sectors, but also to save lives. The Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa program is a prime example of a project that utilizes technology, human knowledge and innovative thinking to rapidly advance healthcare systems and care in Africa, touching all corners of the continent to save lives and enhance people’s livelihood. I am inspired by the work being done at the University of Cape Town as they prioritize advanced technologies to create a more fair and equitable healthcare system on the continent and look forward to seeing the program expand its reach during phase two and beyond. 

Emirates Crop One 

Grace Najjar, Managing Director, MENA 

Aiming to increase long-term food security and slash the carbon footprint linked to all of those imports, U.S. agtech startup Crop One Holdings and Emirates Flight Catering teamed up to create the world’s largest vertical farm. The project could mark an important step forward for the UAE in reaching its food and water security goals. As impressive as that would be, the team has an even bigger vision: to create a template for transforming food production around the globe.  

Why I Chose This Project: It is no surprise that as a forward-looking nation, the UAE is creating a template for transforming food production across the world. Emirates Crop One, is an inspiration for how to invest in technologies and people to make food production and supply more agile and sustainable. Any country with a limited arable land and acute water shortage is forced to import food, in the case of the UAE nearly 90 percent to feed its 9.8 million residents. The UAE has managed to increase long-term food security and reduce the carbon footprint by creating year-round crop production to reach its National Food Security Strategy 2051 as well as its UAE Water Security Strategy 2036 agenda. I’m excited to see missions as such to cultivate a sustainable future for all. 

Chapel of Sound 

Bob Chen, Managing Director, China 

Nestled in China’s Chengde valley, the Chapel of Sound is an engineering and acoustic marvel, bringing life – and tourism to a remote community. Backed by the local government, construction on the project began in April 2018 and was completed in October 2021, offering visitors a unique experience amongst Ming Dynasty-era ruins. 

Why I Chose This Project: A geometrically complex design paired with digital optimization technology to create a concert hall makes for one awe-inspiring project. Beyond this project’s ability to attract tourists and boost the region’s economy, the Chapel of Sound is also architecturally beautiful. Using an aggregate of crushed local rocks and concrete to mimic the valley’s surrounding rock formations, the structural, design and engineering project teams fit thousands of pieces together like a puzzle, all while navigating the challenges and restrictions of building near the Great Wall. The Chapel of Sound demonstrates that while a project may experience a few setbacks or challenges, having the right project professionals on your team can make all the difference in how you collaborate and persevere to generate a beautiful outcome. 

Project Cheetah 

Srini Srinivasan, Managing Director, South Asia 

Seventy years after the world’s fastest land animal was declared extinct in India, three dozen African cheetahs are being relocated to a sprawling national park in India over the next five years. Led by several wildlife conservation teams, the US$28 million project marks the first time a large carnivore is being moved from one continent to another and reintroduced in the wild. 

Why I Chose This Project: Some projects prove that persistence and resolve really do pay off in the long run. The team behind Project Cheetah models for all of us that aligning a team on a common goal can be the difference maker between project success and project failure, no matter the journey it takes to get there. I am inspired by the team behind Project Cheetah, not only because of their conservation efforts but also because they have proven that years-long delays and, at times, fear of failure, shouldn’t hinder a team’s goal, especially when that goal will result in major conservation efforts that impact the viability of an important species in a geographic region. Seventy years ago, many would have thought that what the team has accomplished would have been impossible, but here we are today with three dozen African cheetahs being relocated to their new home in India – with an exciting hope for the future of the species. 

One Million Corals for Colombia  

Ricardo Triana, Managing Director, Latin America 

Hurricanes, global warming, pollution, overfishing and coastal development all threaten native coral species, which are vital to local ecosystems and economies. Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development is taking action with One Million Corals for Colombia, a project to restore 200 hectares of reefs by March 2023, in part by growing coral fragments in dedicated nurseries and transplanting them. It’s the largest coral restoration project in the Americas – uniquely suited to a country that’s home to more than 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) of coral reef and boasts one of the richest ecosystems in the Caribbean Sea. 

Why I Chose This Project: A healthy, prosperous ecosystem is vital for building a more prosperous future. One Million Corals for Colombia is proof that while our human impact on the world can have numerous negative consequences, we can still come together to advance and improve ecosystems and habitats and, thus, improve economies and standards of living. The project leaders and professionals behind One Million Corals for Colombia inspire all of us to look inward and consider the impacts of how we live on the world we share with other species so we can collectively come together to take action to protect ecosystems and the world at large. 

Growing Centers 

Lysan Drabon, Managing Director, Europe 

The edible plant visionaries at Berlin’s InFarm have established themselves as forward-thinking food producers, using machine learning and Internet of Things sensors to increase crop yields at their vertical urban farms. But last year, the company announced an ambitious goal: create 100 sustainable, climate-resistant growing centers for restaurants and grocery stores around the world by 2030. This global megaproject is already well underway, with facilities in London, Paris, Copenhagen, Toronto, Seattle and Tokyo. The compact operations aren’t just high tech, but high yield. And thanks to the data they generate — on everything from crop health and water use to cost per plant — they’re also high efficiency. The result? Lower-cost, supremely sustainable crops that can be grown within walking distance of urban eateries and grocers. 

Why I Chose This Project: With the growing global population, especially in urban areas, there is an increased need for not only more food sources, but sustainable sources at that. The team behind Growing Centers is proving that when you pair data with passion — in addition to a global focus on increasing equitable food sources — there’s nothing that can stop a team from achieving the results they desire. The fact that this project has already reached multiple urban areas across various continents – while still seven years shy of the 2030 goal – is evidence enough that the project team planned, forecasted, convened the right people and put their heads together for not only the betterment of the environment and economy, but for the people who will benefit from being near these urban eateries and grocers. Growing Centers is a prime example of what makes project professionals some of the most important professionals driving positive people and business outcomes, and I look forward to following this project as they continue to effect change around the world. 

Kerman Kasad Kerman Kasad

As Vice President, Communications, Kerman Kasad helps the organization enhance its strong global reputation with a wide variety of stakeholders. Kerman leads the global communications function, communications strategy and reputation management, media relations, social media, CEO communications and positioning, stakeholder communications, internal communications, and issues and crisis management.