Conrado F. Varotto

Part
01
of two
Part
01

Conrado F. Varotto: Pre-INVAP

As a CONICET scholar, Conrado F. Varotto spent two years as a research associate in the Department of Materials Science, Stanford University, California, USA from 1968 to 1970. When he returned to Argentina in 1970, the Silicon Valley companies in California had inspired him greatly, so he worked as a CNEA researcher in Buenos Aires, formed and directed the Department of Applied Research at the Balseiro Atomic Center from 1971 to 1976 with the goal of "solving practical problems," and he received overwhelming support from the then CNEA executives.

FROM BIRTH TO STANFORD

Conrado F. Varotto was born on August 13, 1941, in Brugine, Padova province, Italy during the Second World War. When he was nine years old, he moved to Argentina with his parents to flee armed conflict in Italy. His family chose Argentina because it was a country that promised opportunities to study and work. Varotto got a scholarship to study at the College of Salvador, and at the age of 15, he enrolled into the University of Buenos Aires in the Faculty of Exact Sciences where his career as a physicist began. It is his Belgian physics teacher who inspired him and made him fall in love with physics.

In 1959, he won a scholarship to study at the Institute of Physics of Bariloche (modern-day Balseiro Institute) and graduated with a PhD. in Physics. At the Balseiro Institute, Varotto obtained two CNEA scholarships from 1959 to 1962 and 1963. In 1968, he got a CONICET scholarship to Stanford, where he spent two years as a research associate for the Department of Materials Science. He also engaged in consulting work for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the International Development Research Center of Canada and at companies. At Stanford, Varotto started searching for the link between science and industry, which would later inspire him to start INVAP. During his professional engagement at Stanford, the existing culture in Argentina's academic institutions did not support academic research or its commercialization.

AFTER STANFORD

Conrado F. Varotto returned to Argentina in 1970, having obtained his post-doctorate at Stanford University in the United States and being inspired by Silicon Valley companies in California. In 1970, he worked as CNEA researcher based in Buenos Aires. When he returned to Bariloche, he formed the Department of Applied Research. After some time, he was confronted with the fact that a state agency was not the right entity to sell technology, so the idea of creating a company to sell technology was conceived in 1974.

He was the primary coordinator of the Applied Research Program of the Balseiro Atomic Center from 1971 to 1976, where his goal was to solve practical problems. During this time, Varotto met people like Sábato, Castro Madero (from the then Atomic Energy Commission) that helped him create INVAP in 1976.

According to Varotto, the original founding group of INVAP consisted of seven to eight members, most of whom were graduates from Balseiro. Their original idea was to connect the university and industry, leveraging the capacity that already existed in the National Atomic Energy Commission, to form a company that would produce things that people will be willing to pay for. The idea was wholly supported by First Admiral Pedro Iraolagoitía, president of CNEA, and also his successor, Castro Madero. Finally, on September 1, 1976, INVAP was formed, under the agreement between the then governor of Río Negro, Mario Franco, and the CONEA authorities.

QUOTES THAT GUIDED VAROTTO IN CREATING INVAP

  • "In my doctoral thesis, I say that I thank my parents for bringing me to an extraordinary country, for the future and hope that gave me everything, and I intend to give them the same or more opportunities to all of them. Now that I am going to have a little more I will be able to go back to the crazy ideas in the laboratory since I will continue to work with honorable people related to those wonderful children that Argentina has in the different areas I have traveled, but I am going to dedicate more time to the family"
  • "I see Argentina's spatial and scientific future very well, and our society knows today that developing countries do it with knowledge." To the three pillars of development that are land, work, capital, now there is to add knowledge."
  • "It may have seemed utopian when thirty years ago a group of young idealists, some particularly imbued with the social doctrine of the Church, set out to take advantage of the country's main resource, its gray matter, for the generation of genuine sources of work in the province of Río Negro."


Part
02
of two
Part
02

Conrado F. Varotto

Introduction of zircaloy technology, RA6 & enriched uranium, and expansion to advanced technology areas such as radars and satellites are some milestones of INVAP. Varotto also inspired by the new companies that were growing up in Silicon Valley and Argentina. The idea to build bridges between the university & industry are some of his motivations for creating the company during this period.

Milestones

The INVAP company was made to be a state company that is owned by the Province of Rio Negro. It has a Board which is chaired by the CNEA. As a company, it was ready to face a market that is filled with uncertainty. Additionally, during its first year as a company, it has achieved numerous milestones such as zircaloy technology, RA6, and enriched uranium. Among these achievements, the enrichment of uranium proved to be the greatest challenge for the company.

INVAP was also successful in the SAC-D or Aquarius project. The project was a joint mission from both CONAE and US NASA alongside other major countries such as Brazil, Canada, France, and Italy. The achievement was highlighted at an international level by the company, and it also proved to be an achievement milestone for the company’s space career. It then continued to sell to the world. At the time, Varotto also achieved remarkable experience in Argentina by selling his technology that competed with the most capable international suppliers.

Varotto was then assigned as the head of CONAE. He demonstrated superior creativity with the role, as he was able to look for unconventional solutions and was able to lead the company to various cooperation with other national and international companies. His creativity helped the space satellites SAC-A, B, C, and D Aquarius to launch into space. Moreover, his capability to lead saved the Argentine space activity after the “hecatomb” of the Condor project. Additionally, it was also Varotto’s charisma that led to the birth of INVAP in 1976. He convinced many Argentinian authorities to fund a company meant for applied research and development. Eventually, the joint venture between the local government and the National Commission of Atomic Energy led to the creation of INVAP in 1976.


The company then expanded to other technological branches such as radars and satellites. INVAP also concentrated on the nuclear industry, and eventually gained an international reputation as a designer and supplier of the system for nuclear reactors. The company also serves as a provider of Turkey reactors for the research and production of isotopes meant for medical use. Recently, projects have been taking a larger scale, because Varotto is now the executive director of the Creation of the National Commission of Space Activities.

Motivations

In 1972, Conrado F. Varotto was motivated to start a group of applied physicians within the CAB. The group was meant to “practical problems.” He convinced a group of scientists from the Balseiro Institute to start the group (4). Additionally, he inspired many companies in both the Silicon Valley and Argentina. He was always impressed by how science and real life go hand-in-hand in various universities. Many admire Varotto because of his ability to inspire people. Furthermore, during the initial times of the company, the main contractor of INVAP was CONAE, and this promoted the growth of knowledge within the company. Varotto was inspired by the influence of Jorge Sabato, the person who created technology management in the company.

Additionally, he believed that in whenever field, he should succeed, stating that if someone built a thousand satellites, his thousand satellites should be better than the other. He also built the company on the idea of a “bridge between university and industry.” He capitalized on the existence of the capacity of the National Atomic Energy Commission when building his company. He was motivated to build a company that would produce things that would serve the people in a quality that they would be willing to pay for them. Varotto also believes that a technology company must be incubated for a long time by the National Atomic Energy Commission. However, it also still requires the appropriate legal system and authority.




Sources
Sources

From Part 01
Quotes
  • "At the age of 15 he joined the FCBA of the UBA and in 1959 he won a scholarship to enter the Institute of Physics of Bariloche (today Balseiro Institute). There he graduated and PhD in Physics and in 1968 he went to Stanford with a CONICET scholarship. In the Dept. of Materials Science at Stanford was 2 years. As we know, Stanford is the birthplace of Silicon Valley. In the words of Varotto "Stanford marked my way of looking at the link between science and industry." In those years in Argentina the prevailing culture in academic institutions did not favor applied research and even less, its commercialization (what we nowadays call "transference")."
  • "Upon his return to Bariloche, he created and directed the Department of Applied Research for a few years and, faced with the evidence that a State agency was not suitable for selling technology, the idea of ​​creating a company for this purpose began to germinate in 1974. First Admiral Pedro Iraolagoitía, President of CNEA, supported the idea and then his successor Castro Madero gave him the push to put it into practice in 1976. In my opinion, this has been one of the initiatives with the greatest economic and social impact of the application of knowledge in the history of the country"
  • "Varotto directed INVAP until 1991. There followed two years of some anxiety where we shared the uncertainty of our futures (I had also left CNEA and was starting with THASA and I remember that we even talked about partnering in that endeavor), but shortly after he won by contest the position of National Director of Planning, Evaluation and Control in the Secretariat of S & T. Fortunately (in my opinion) in 1994 he was appointed responsible for the management of the recently created National Space Activities Commission, a position he has held up to now."
Quotes
  • " You have to think that you are in Argentina and it is a country that gives opportunities. He gave them to me all. I did not have to go look for them. I arrived in the country of Italy and the Jesuits received me in El Salvador. And I was lucky to have a terrific physics teacher. He was a Belgian who had me crazy, but in the lab he made me love physics. And I came in naturally. Then I met people like Sábato, Castromadero, who was on the Atomic Energy Commission gave a boost to the madness we wanted to do. "
  • "When they tell me, you and your group are responsible for INVAP, see if Castromadero was not there, it would not have been possible. It's that set of people who do things. The space thing came out to me naturally too. We had support from all governments, really. I want to emphasize that Argentine society must put in its head that countries advance as they advance in Education, Science and Technology. All sacrifices are worth it."
Quotes
  • "He was born on 08/13/1941 in Italy. PhD in Physics UNCuyo. He obtained two CNEA scholarships to perfect himself at the Balseiro Institute (PK) (1959-62 and 1963) and a CONICET (PK) scholarship to Stanford University, USA. (1968-70). He did consulting work for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the International Development Research Center of Canada and in companies. Research Associate in the Department of Materials Science, Stanford University, California, USA. (1968-70); Coordinator of the Applied Research Program of the Balseiro Atomic Center (1971-76); Founder and General and Technical Manager of INVAP (PK) (1976-91). He served as President of the National Commission for Space Activities (1994-96) and is currently its Executive and Technical Director. Member of the Academies of Sciences of Buenos Aires and Córdoba. He received distinctions in the country and abroad."
Quotes
  • "And as a final phrase, he said: " I see Argentina's spatial and scientific future very well, and our society knows today that developing countries do it with knowledge." To the three pillars of development that are land, work, capital, now there is to add knowledge. ""
  • "This Italian immigrant remembers his first days when the love for science arose: "It was the Jesuits of the Salvador school who got me the love for the exact sciences, particularly for Physics", recalled Conrado."
Quotes
  • " Actually, everything began before the official foundation of "Applied Research" (Investigación Aplicada, in Spanish), which was the original name of the company. Back in 1972, Dr. Conrado Varotto formed a group of "Applied Physics" within CAB with the aim of "solving practical problems," as he tried to explain a group of young scientists, many of whom had recently graduated from the Balseiro Institute."
Quotes
  • "It may have seemed utopian when thirty years ago a A group of young idealists, some particularly imbued with the social doctrine of the Church, set out to take advantage of the country's main resource, its gray matter, for the generation of genuine sources of work in the province of Río Negro"
  • "In 1971, Varotto,who had been born in Padua, Italy, and had arrived in the country at the age of nine, returned from a post-doctorate at Stanford University in the United States, inspired by the new companies that were growing up in Silicon Valley, but also convinced that in Argentina we could do it. "I was impressed to see how science could interact with real life on a university campus," says Varotto, a figure whose adventure companions convey an admiration that time does not erode. It was fabulous, we never got scared or thought we were not going to be able to, I always thought that even if someone did a thousand satellites, mine had to be as good as the thousand of the other. awesome youth. ""
  • " A year later, Otheguy returned from a master's degree in physics in the United States and Varotto was already gathering the core of pioneers. "We were seven or eight," he recalls, "most of them graduated from Balseiro, the idea was to build bridges between the university and industry, taking advantage of the capacity that already existed in the National Atomic Energy Commission, to create a company that would live off the that is, to produce things that would serve someone in such a way that he would be willing to pay for them. ""
  • "The initiative would take shape on September 1, 1976, thanks to an agreement between the then governor of Río Negro, Mario Franco, and the authorities of the Conea."
From Part 02
Quotes
  • "he creation of INVAP, although a work of a team of people, has its stamp of creativity and unmistakable personal drive. The very design of the new company: to make it as a state company owned by the Province of Río Negro with a Board chaired by CNEA, operating without state subsidies, ready to face the vagaries of the market as a private company, is due to it. "
  • "In the first years important successes were achieved, such as zircaloy technology, RA6 and especially enriched uranium. Then came more complicated times that the INVAP organization allowed to overcome. To survive, INVAP went out to sell to the world and was successful."
  • "He achieved an unprecedented experience in Argentina selling his own technology competing with the most important international suppliers."
  • "I said before that fortunately Varotto was designated head of CONAE. There he also demonstrated his creativity in the structure that gave the institution that has had a surprising continuity, unusual in Argentina and saved the Argentine space activity after the hecatomb of the Condor project. "
  • " It was a plan that had specific objectives and goals, schedules, commitment to results and a defined budget. When the expected flow of funds did not materialize, Varotto was once again able to look for unconventional solutions. "
Quotes
  • "The successful completion of the SAC-D/Aquarius project, carried out by a joint mission between the CONAE and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) together with Brazil, Canada, France and Italy, highlighted the international level achieved by INVAP, and proved to be a milestone in the contribution of the company to the space career."
Quotes
  • "Initially, INVAP concentrated on the nuclear area, where it won international reputation as designer and supplier of systems for nuclearreactors, and as provider for turnkey reactors for research and for massproduction of radioisotopes for medical use."
Quotes
  • "In 1976, a joint venture between the local government and the National Commission of Atomic Energy gave birth to INVAP. "
Quotes
  • ""A technology company is not born and grows out of the air," says Varotto, "it must be incubated for a long time by a special mother, in our case that mother was the National Atomic Energy Commission, but it also requires an appropriate legal system or , in the absence of this, authorities that commit themselves to the objective, and we find that in the province of Río Negro. ""
  • "In 1985, the contract with Algeria for the sale of a reactor was signed and the export stage began. He was followed by a contract with Cuba for a radioisotope plant. And in February 1990 they submitted for an international tender in Egypt."
  • ""It was the moment of truth," says Otheguy, "Russian, American, French companies participated ... We had to wait until September 1992. I remember well, because it was a terrible time for Invap. of the utmost despair. ""
  • "In the nineties, the space adventure would arrive . First, timidly. But with the creation of the National Commission of Space Activities and the incorporation of Varotto as executive director, the projects were taking on a larger scale."