SPAIN - Economy
CEO, SENER Group
Jorge Unda is the CEO of the SENER Group. He started working at the company in 1986 as a project engineer and project manager, mainly in the aerospace area. In 1997, he was appointed deputy managing director, and in 1998 he became SENER’s managing director. In 2018, he was appointed CEO of the entire group. Before joining SENER, he worked as a research engineer in the applied mechanics department of the CEIT research center in San Sebastian, a job he combined with his work as a lecturer in kinematics and the dynamics of mechanisms at the Superior Engineering School of San Sebastian. The author or coauthor of more than 20 papers, he has a PhD in mechanical engineering from the Superior Engineering School of San Sebastian ESII, University of Navarra.
Can you tell us about the evolution of the company?
SENER Group was founded by two brothers in 1956 and started out as a marine design office, as one of the brothers, the late Enrique de Sendagorta, was a naval architect with a PhD in naval engineering. A few years later he asked his younger brother José Manuel, an aerospace engineer with a PhD in aeronautical engineering, if he was interested in pursuing research, and they both worked to develop the company. Opportunities began to arise, one being an international bid for a rocket launch tower in Kiruna in the north of Sweden in 1967. Later, we expanded into infrastructure, then energy, and naturally became a diversified company. One major milestone was getting a contract in the 1980s from the consortium developing the European fighter aircraft called the Typhoon, for which we helped develop the jet engine. We were awarded the contract to develop 13% of the project. Then we entered into a partnership with Rolls Royce and developed an industry in Spain for the manufacturing and maintenance of jet engines; a partnership that has lasted for over 25 years. The culture of this company has always been driven by its founders’ spirit of innovation and excellence. In fact, one of them, José Manuel de Sendagorta, came from the academic professional development with a focus on R&D. We have always positioned ourselves at the high end of engineering. After starting in engineering services, we moved into products such as mission critical electromechanical systems onboard satellites. To give you an idea, if you look at the Mars Rover, Curiosity, all the data coming to earth goes through an antenna that was partially developed, manufactured, and qualified by SENER, as we did the antenna’s pointing mechanism. We are proud to remain at the cutting edge of technology.
What is the most prominent line of business or product you offer?
Being a diversified company, we have been involved in the design and development of civil infrastructure, transport infrastructure, urban transport, metro systems, trams, high speed rail, and so forth, where sometimes we team up with construction companies. That is one business area. Another is marine, where, in addition to developing marine engineering projects, since the late 1960s we have developed the FORAN System, a commercial CAD/CAM software to design and build ships. In the energy arena, we have been involved in construction, first as a designer, and later as a designer, engineer, and turnkey constructor of energy power plants. Lately, we have been involved in renewables and solar power plants. We have developed numerous power plants in Spain, Morocco, and South Africa, among other markets. Finally, we are active in the aerospace business in which we have two key products: the onboard telecommunications systems and the aforementioned mission critical electromechanical systems. These are mission critical because if the antenna’s pointing mechanism on Mars fails, so does the entire mission. We also have an investment arm through which we invest in cutting-edge technologies that we develop as engineers. Therefore, we have a broad range of engineering services: we design, integrate, test, and manufacture aerospace equipment, products and systems, while in civil infrastructure, we provide a full range of services for complex integral projects. We are also an internationally renowned technology company in railways and mass transit, in addition to delivering marine engineering services, whether designing ships and through our FORAN CAD/CAM system or by delivering turnkey plants in the energy arena. We are well known for our space projects and our leading technology for solar thermal power plants.