SENER is a company that works in the high-tech sector. What is the difference between SENER’s way of innovating and that of its competitors?
Luis Bazán: Without a doubt, it’s the way our technology moves seamlessly between the company’s various disciplines. We see this more and more every day, with some very interesting synergies occurring. It’s not easy to find engineering firms with the multi-disciplinary skills that SENER has, with its extremely broad technological diversification and a firm vocation for innovation.
Mercedes Sierra: The European Commission clearly distinguishes between innovation, development and research based on how close you are to the market. Companies generally carry out innovation projects, which are the part that’s closest to the market. For example, they update a product in order to adapt it better to their customers’ needs. But SENER invests more in research and development in the early stages, which deal with creating the concept for an idea on a blank sheet of paper. We then execute the project through to its conclusion.
This decision-making capacity that allows SENER to break into new fields and take on pioneering projects, what can it be attributed to?
LB: For the most part it comes from the freedom and confidence to develop new ideas that are transmitted to SENER people by the Managing Board. Meanwhile, the medium-term objectives are established in the strategic plans, putting a large emphasis on the need to follow an overarching concept where innovation plays a key role.
MS: At the end of the day, innovation always means taking a risk, and if you don’t work in an environment that inspires trust, then you don’t take risks – you’re just content to reproduce more traditional solutions. This trust in people and their abilities has been present at SENER since its foundation.
LB: No limits are placed on taking risks, as long as they’re kept under control. There is a very open attitude; solidity in proposals is given priority over immediate economic results.
We’ve been talking about innovation, which is one common component in all of SENER’s areas of activity. Why have we focused this interview on the Infraestructures and Transport sector, bringing together two civil engineers?
LB: It may be because in civil infrastructures it’s harder to identify the innovative component at the outset when compared to the other fields in which SENER operates. But it exists both in our products, and especially in our services. The innovative products are less evident. For example, aerodynamic projects related to railway traffic are identified as being innovative, such as the crosswind prediction and actuation system for high-speed rail lines, studies on the flying ballast effect, or the recently patented Aerotraviesa® system. But there is also another type of innovation, which is the one associated with the services we offer, such as the integrated engineering we provide at SENER. This sets us apart from most other domestic and international engineering firms since we are able to use our own resources to execute an entire transportation infrastructure, from the drawing board to its commissioning and start-up.
Every day, clients are looking more and more for this type of integrated capacity, especially administrators or construction companies that have to build and operate these types of services: not just because it provides them with greater reliability, but also because building an infrastructure involves executing a multi-disciplinary project, bringing together very disparate areas; and that means being able to manage them as a whole.
MS: It’s true that the civil engineering sector is more resistant to innovation. And this is understandable if you think about, for example, railway operators where there are passengers involved. They have to give priority to the safety of the infrastructure. In order to do this, they use solutions that have passed the test of time. However, it is possible to innovate while also inspiring confidence.
Well SENER has plenty of innovative patents in the railway sector: its crosswind prediction system, Aerotraviesa®…
LB: These are innovations that came about for various reasons: due to being close to the client, due to SENER’s own technological diversity and due to a need to solve a problem that the client had detected in its railway lines that were in operation. Sometimes this identification comes from SENER when it designs new lines that will be starting operations: for example, a high-speed line that must overcome new challenges. SENER has therefore positioned itself in fields where it is now recognised as an expert by international railway operators, such as crosswind prediction. The fact that Adif has adopted our system has made us a benchmark company.
MS: And it is precisely this technological differentiation that enables us to compete in international markets.
In fact, most of SENER’s branches have been established because of infrastructure projects, can you explain us why?
LB: There are two main reasons for that. First, because our sector had to anticipate the disappearance of the local market in Spain. Secondly, because you need to have roots in a country in order to properly meet its basic infrastructure needs. In this regard, at SENER we work with continuities instead of opportunities. We open offices in a certain geographic region as part of a strategic plan. Two of the most successful recent cases have been Mexico and Brazil.
Source: Sener Magazine