Corpro Systems technical director Philippe Cravatte, 41, has a history of taking objects apart and then putting them back together.
His interest in mechanics started when he was a child and continues to this day in his role as boss of one of the latest “Oscar” winners of the UK oil and gas industry.
Corpro won the category for ideas – sponsored jointly by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and ITF, the industry technology facilitator – at the Scottish Offshore Achievement Awards in March.
“I’m a creative person and always strive to come up with new solutions,” said Mr Cravatte, adding: “When I was a child, I enjoyed dismantling things, playing with Lego and making go-karts. I’ve always been fascinated by all things technical.”
Corpro, based at Whitecairns, in Aberdeenshire, specialises in core sampling systems (coring) for the energy industry.
The company’s iCore product helps users to understand what is happening inside core barrels and is said to offer an industry breakthrough in the coring process, because engineers have previously had to rely on surface indications such as torque, pressure and rate of penetration to evaluate what is going on downhole.
It was iCore that won Corpro its accolade in March and also a shortlisting for this year’s Grampian Awards for Business Enterprise, which will be presented in the Mercure Ardoe House Hotel and Spa, at Blairs near Aberdeen, on Thursday, June 17.
Mr Cravatte, who hails from Belgium, said the Offshore Achievement Award recognised iCore’s uniqueness and the capabilities of the engineers, researchers and developers among Corpro’s 130-strong workforce.
It also reflected the contribution from other divisions of Corpro’s parent, Reservoir Group, he added.
Mr Cravatte grew up in Malmedy, a town in eastern Belgium beside the Formula 1 race track of Spa-Francorchamps.
He later moved to Liege, a city about the size of Aberdeen, where he graduated from university as a mechanical engineer.
But nothing prepared the non-English-speaking student for an even bigger transition when he took up a six-month work placement in Scotland, with East Kilbride engineering group Clyde Blowers.
“I didn’t speak for about two months,” said Mr Cravatte, adding. “I couldn’t understand a word anyone said despite everyone being extremely nice to me.”
“After a few months I settled in nicely and did well in the job, so much so that they kept me on for an extra three months.”
Mr Cravatte taught himself English and was eventually offered a job with Clyde Blowers at its Brussels base, where he worked for almost a year.
He went on to join a division of international energy service giant Halliburton as a technical-support engineer for new coring and drilling tools and, within a year, was promoted to technical-support manager.
“I was involved with all new projects,” said Mr Cravatte, adding: “My department was acting as the interface between the engineering department and operations.
“It’s where I gained most of my early experience with coring and downhole technologies.”
A surprise phone call in 1999 changed his career path.
Former colleague Pascal Bartette, who is now chief executive of Reservoir Group, asked if he was interested in teaming up with him for the acquisition of Corpro.
“I didn’t think twice,” said Mr Cravatte, although the father-of-three admitted it had been a risk moving to the north-east. He said: “Corpro was in serious difficulties at the time, so I was going into the unknown.
“My wife, Aline, had also just had our first child, Simon, who was six months old. It was extremely hard for her to leave and go to a place where she didn’t know anyone.”
Mr Cravatte and his family have never looked back, however, and there are now three children: Simon, 11, Celia, 9 and four-year-old Nora.
“We love the north-east,” said Corpro’s boss, adding: “It’s a great environment for our family and I can indulge in my passion for motorbikes by going out on my CBR 600.”
Corpro, which was set up in the late 1980s and changed hands several times before the 1999 buyout, now has 36 bases across five continents.
In 1999, its turnover was less than £2million but last year the company achieved nearly £32million.
Last year, the firm was awarded the contract by Brazilian oil producer Petrobras to core the entire Tupi reservoir offshore of South America.
Mr Cravatte said: “It was an extremely challenging application, with huge cost implications, but the coring operation was an outstanding success and resulted in substantial savings compared to the customer’s original budget.”
Backed by private-equity firm SCF Partners, Aberdeen-based Reservoir Group has acquired seven businesses since it was established in 2007 to take a world-leading position in oil and gas technologies.
Last year, it opened a new corporate office in Rubislaw Terrace in the Granite City and announced a senior appointment to handle the significant expansion of the business as it worked towards a goal of £350million turnover by 2013.
It aims to reach its five-year target through organic growth and further acquisitions of niche, market-leading companies.
The senior appointment led to the promotion of group financial controller David Clark to the newly created role of head of corporate development, responsible for targeting and executing key acquisitions.
Reservoir unveiled a new chairman earlier this year, with Christopher Gaut, the managing director of the company’s majority shareholder, SCF Partners, taking on the role.
Mr Gaut joined SCF last year, having previously been president of drilling and evaluation at Houston-based Halliburton. He was also Halliburton’s executive VP and chief financial officer from 2003 to 2007.
Mr Cravatte said the other Reservoir Group businesses – Kirk Petrophysics, StoreCore, Dowdco, Extreme Machining, InfoAsset and Omega Data Services – had played a key role in Corpro’s success.
He added: “We like to push the limits of our capabilities by working together and capitalising on new opportunities.”