Spanish engineering group Sener will use virtual reality rooms and new offices in Sydney’s historic Rocks district to try to attract skilled professionals to its local Tactix business as it eyes road, rail and offshore wind contracts.
The Bilbao-based private company, which has a global workforce of 2700 people, is trying to carve out a niche for itself in Australia’s booming infrastructure market after it bought a 60 per cent stake in infrastructure and transport advisory group Tactix last year.
Sener global chief executive Jorge Sendagorta Cudos, who visited Australia last week, said the family-owned company wanted to deepen its local expertise as it eyed bigger contracts. Tactix’s local management has retained a 40 per cent stake.
“Our intention is always to do things as local as possible,” Mr Sendagorta Cudos told The Australian Financial Review.
Ben Neary, the chief executive of Tactix, said the Sener purchase would allow the group to take advantage of international technology and skills, including Sener’s experience in high-speed rail projects.
“It gives us access to balance sheet,” Mr Neary said. “But I’m still running the company here as Tactix with Sener’s support … there’s an Australian management team.”
The company will open an office this year in The Rocks, near the harbour, to create a collaborative workspace that attracts and keeps staff and to encourage them to use digital and virtual reality technologies when designing projects.
It wants to double its Australian staff numbers over the next three years and encourage university exchanges between Australia and Spain to boost skills development.
Local contracts to date have included supporting construction companies on Sydney Metro engineering contracts and working on the Coffs Harbour bypass and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.
But the Spanish group, which was founded by Mr Sendagorta Cudos’ grandfather in 1956, sees opportunities in Australia to advise on more rail projects, including station design and ventilation systems as well as any future high-speed rail lines.
The company is working with several clients in Europe using artificial intelligence to make the power consumption of heating and cooling systems more efficient, including in hospitals.
It has used AI to develop a ventilation system that is being used in Barcelona’s subways. The system, known as Respira, claims to save energy by monitoring geothermal ground conditions as well as temperature changes as trains come in and out of tunnels and people move in and out of stations, and uses an AI algorithm to control ventilation.
Mr Neary said energy efficiency had not been widely considered in Australian infrastructure projects, but that the rise in energy prices combined with new targets to cut carbon emissions would create more demand.
While Sener’s Australian business is mostly focused on transportation, it wants to expand into energy infrastructure, including offshore wind projects.
“We have a large energy business in Sener and we think that through Tactix we might be able to do some activities here,” Mr Sendagorta Cudos said.
The company is already working with renewable energy developer BlueFloat Energy, which is backed by US-based 547 Energy and Quantum Energy Partners, on floating wind projects overseas and wants to bid for local projects.
Government tenders in Australia for offshore wind projects valued technical expertise and were not just being awarded to the cheapest bidder, Mr Sendagorta Cudos said.
Bringing business lines like Sener’s energy services to Australia was a “no-brainer” but the company would also like to potentially bring some of its aerospace business Down Under, he said.
The company works with space agencies and aerospace companies to design satellite technology and equipment for space exploration and has developed rovers that operate on Mars.
The global CEO said Sener had “never been busier” partially due to stronger demand for engineering services related to the energy transition and the war in Ukraine, which has forced European countries to build new liquified gas facilities to diversify away from Russia.
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