Chapter 4: In the World of Research

5. Space, Oceanography, Fertilisers
During all my years at Battelle the textile sector was my main and most expansive battle field and this allowed me to reach a certain financial stability. And so I tried to explore other sectors, but with minor success.
In 1968, I published my first book on the conquest of space and Europe. My proposition was that the space programme should be introduced into the European Community, bearing in mind its technological and symbolic importance.
Together with an aeronautical engineer we carried out some studies on business planes. More interesting however was a job carried out for ELDO (European Launcher Development Organisation) which at that time represented the European effort to create space launchers. A short time later ELDO was absorbed by ESA, the European Space Agency. Our study concerned the detailed analysis of ELDO’s programme, of all that had been done and the reasons for some failures, sometimes due to difficulties of varying nature created by member States. When the organisation was dissolved a short time later the Secretary General departed with flying colours.
After having created a little research group in the aeronautical and space sector I tried to investigate the oceanography sector too. All the more since Battelle had some small laboratories in this area in the United States. I had been able to visit one of them that was devoted to fish farming. In this instance too I published a book in collaboration with Henri Loubergè, then a student at Geneva University, and Henri Schwamm who at that time was Secretary General of the Geneva European Culture Centre. With the help of an electronic engineer we took the first step with a research project on underwater measuring instruments for a French agency.
Bearing in mind my previous experience in the world of chemical fertilisers industry, I had greater success with a small research group on liquid fertilisers. That was one of the studies that led me to reflect on the evolution of contemporary economics. In the constant search for efficiency and productivity it was clear that injecting land with fertilisers in liquid or even gas form could offer some advantages. Although this form of spreading is still used it presents an important number of logistic limits: the shape of the land and above all the need to invest in machinery that can only be used for three to six weeks a year.
It is here that the economic notion of use appears, or rather of utilisation over a period of time (not always determinable). The real cost of the performance began in that case too to modify the economic aspect of this kind of problem. This is without counting the increase in vulnerability because liquid fertilisers must be injected in the absence of rain, otherwise their loss and draining away through the various strata of the soil result in still greater drawbacks when compared to traditional chemical fertilisers.
These activities in the textile and farming (fertilisers) sector led us to carry out studies such as those on the possibilities of the development of trade among the Maghreb countries (Algeria, Morocco and Libya). For various reasons their economic integration still remains rather far off, but it was interesting to observe various attitudes. In Algeria for example, when an official car brought me back to my hotel and I tried to give the driver a tip he would refuse saying: “No Sir, we have had the revolution here!” A certain rigorous revolutionary spirit (French style) had remained.
In Libya – it was still the El Senussi period, that of Gaddafi’s predecessor – I had been given an appointment at the Ministry of Industry and Petroleum. After noticing several American and Dutch officials, and having waited for two hours, I was introduced to a top Libyan manager for whom it was important to underline to me, an Italian, the fact that Libya was independent from Italy, its old colonising country. I was not able to resist the temptation to tell him that they had nevertheless retained too many Italian habits, such as that of making an appointment and then not being punctual.
Well or badly, and ultimately it was pretty well, all those activities had ended up provid­ing work for about fifteen people. I was ready to become a division head and for that reason a group specialising in macroeconomics and particularly in input-output models was added.
This group had a financial deficit in its accounts that the excess from my activities par­­tially covered. “Right then, let’s begin,” I said, since macroeconomy had an excellent intellectual tradition at Battelle and I could learn new things. The most interest­ing thing is that in 1972 we were asked to create simulations on what would happen to the economy if the price of petrol should be doubled or tripled. At that time this hypothesis seemed rather strange to us, but a year later the price had quadrupled. The 1973 crisis had begun. An even stranger fact: our simulations demonstrated that given the utilisation of petroleum in all industrial and commercial uses, inflation would increase by one or perhaps two percent. We had thus reached the end of the long period of growth – 6% a year on average, at least in the so called industrialised countries – that we had known after the Second World War. Starting that year, growth in these countries swung between 2 and 3% annually and the rates of the Glorious Thirties were forgotten without anyone, economists included, asking too many questions about the reasons for this change. So I began then to work out an explanation for this which I will deal with in another chapter.
Within this macroeconomic research group I formulated a subject which was to prove essential when I changed employment. Andrè Gabus, who together with Emilio Fontela, the department head, had, over the years, developed input-output models, had also contributed to the creation of the Battelle Geneva pension fund system. So we began to suggest some studies to the outside world on savings and retirement.

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