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SENER taps overseas markets as Spain stumbles

updated 1:36 PM EDT, Thu July 19, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Spanish engineering giant SENER is tapping overseas markets in response to Spain's stumbles
  • Spain has suffered in the eurozone crisis, and its economy has contracted
  • SENER's chief executive said the opportunities in Spain have gone
  • The country -- and its people -- need to recover trust in each other, he says

(CNN) -- Spain engineering giant SENER is tapping overseas opportunities in response to a collapse in its home market, which has been swept into the eurozone crisis.

Its shift in focus is reflected in its numbers -- 80% of its civil engineering and architecture contracts are now international, from 30% two years ago, according to the company annual report.

In the boom years civil engineers had no problem finding work in Spain, they had good salaries and they wouldn't move abroad. Now, that has changed.

"In Spain only three or four years ago, if you asked part of your team to move to the Arabic Gulf to carry out an infrastructure project, they wouldn't move," chief executive Jorge Sendagorta told CNN. "Now they do."

The opportunities in Spain "disappeared many months ago, if not years ago," Sendagorta said. The company is now focused on engineering projects elsewhere in the world.

SENER champions innovation, internationalization and investment -- which Sendagota calls the three "i"s. He argues that if innovation is the center of the company's ambitions, the rest will follow. "Every large contract we win, every new significant opportunity we win around the world is based on a technology advantage, on an innovation we have developed," he said.

As such, the company this year intends to ratchet up its research and development spending in its engineering business by more than a third, and almost a half in its aeronautics arms.

It is doing that against a backdrop of increased austerity in Spain, the focus on which Sendagorta questions.

"It is something that has to be done," he said, "but we also need an industrial policy, we need a technology policy, we need policies that will support the sectors in Spain where it is a good player: tourism (and) food production, for example."

Spain, he said, needs to "recover trust in ourselves, confidence in ourselves and we need to recover trust in each other."

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