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Math and Industry, winning team.

“TRIESTE- Esof 2020. Trieste, European city of science, closes with a scientific success for the high level of the participating scientists, for the number of events and the participation of the public …”

 Thus begins the article published in Il Gazzettino.
We are talking about EUROSCIENCE OPEN FORUM that this happened in Trieste from 2nd to 6th September 2020.
World-class names, two Nobel laureates, Ada Yonah, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Barry Barish, Nobel Prize in Physics for gravitational wave research, Alessio Figalli, Fields Medal for Mathematics, Nobel Prize equivalent, The Governor of the Bank of Italy Ignazio Visco and the American economist Jeffrey Sachs, are the most illustrious among the many who populated the event.

 During this international event Trieste was animated by 180 meetings in 5 days and about 7000 connections. 
The event was also a moment of encounter between Company and School. Among the different school excellence protagonists, also SISSA – International School of Advanced Higher Studies –  which participated with the date “SCIENCE IN THE CITY FESTIVAL”.
In the evening of Friday, September 4, was debated about science and industry and applied mathematics to the industry, in the presence of representatives of big companies such as FINCANTIERI and DANIELI and our Chief Operating Engineer Mr. Riccardo Furlanetto. 
Riccardo, in his dual role as a professor of innovation and as head of innovation
and industry, has brought some IMESA in the scientific world.

 Ciao Riccardo, to accompany the readers in our chat, I would start from two questions that were addressed to you during the evening.

All right, let’s get started.

“Math plays an increasingly important role in product and process innovation, why?”

During my twenty-year experience in R&D and innovation, I have witnessed the development of mathematics applied to industry.  A distinction should be made between “day-to-day” and “high-end” maths.
In the “day by day” context, applied mathematics is increasingly an optimal tool to increase the ability to make multiple choices and to optimize processes.

I have observed, over the years, engineers coming to the industrial world and, little by little, archiving years of math in universities, focusing for example on mechanics.
An efficient R&D, to progress in modern times, can no longer afford not to consider applied mathematics.
It is a change of approach to development that we are also implementing in IMESA: encourage our people to use diversified tools in the design and product development phase, including, precisely, mathematics.

 “How to accelerate innovation, knowledge transfer and technology transfer in the relationship between university and business?”

University-Enterprise is a marriage that, according to my experience and my thinking, can lead to great results.
I argue that you have to start to see the university as a business partner and see the industry as a research partner. Only the exchange of roles leads to growth, a bi-directional exchange.
The industry itself must begin to transfer know-how to the university to transfer experience, while the university must combine the business vision of a project with pure research.
This condition would accelerate change through the optimal management of specific projects and themes.

I imagine that who deals with innovation in a company, almost always clashes with a deep-rooted historicity and methodology. What actions do you put in place to overcome these obstacles?

The company culture represents the walls of the house. Break them down? Not necessarily.
Let us start from the notion that change takes time and let us not underestimate this aspect which, in itself, is already a stumbling block to overcome.
The company by nature wants instant results, it is a necessity but also a “defect” on many occasions.

How to change then? The integration of fresh forces in the company, that is those who are recognized as “change agents” as free from the constraints of the past, is the starting point.
The contamination between historic staff and new forces leads to a positive change.
People and consistency in pursuing strategy and goals are the right levers to change.

I repeat, coherence, coherence and consistency with the choices made.
Everything can be improved along the way, but this does not mean changing direction in search of faster results that often do not prove as effective.

The word “innovation” commonly leads to thinking about new tools and high technology.
Your definition of innovation, however, is very human.

Exactly and I firmly believe that Innovation is such when it is successful and success is made by people.
It is essential to create a “humus” of people that favors the blossoming of ideas.

Would you like to tell me an innovative success of your career?

You can innovate a product, but also a method and an idea.
I am very proud, for example, of a project carried out in the past that aimed to create an environment in which university students and doctoral students converged, mixed with people from the company itself.
Essentially an industry-university meeting point, focused on the educational aspect of academics in the industry context, but keeping academic skills alive.

IMESA immediately proved to be sensitive to this project that has always been a belief for me. I love working with multicultural and multi-ethnic teams, but at the same time rooted in the territory, capable of attracting gender, training, cultural and work experience diversity.

How many opportunities does this “water-air-steam” sector, normally bound in the back stage but at the same time indispensable, offer ?

There are plenty of chances. Iot and chemical innovations are for example two of the main topics that deserve study and development.
In IMESA today we are interested in the process that leads us to the result and this requires
We do not just focus on the product but develop its performance. So, let’s go back to the concept of team, a team composed of many indispensable figures, each for their own knowledge and this is what really enriches the company culture and consequently the industry.

So you can still have fun in this area?

Absolutely yes! Let’s get rid of the mechanics and think about artificial intelligence, the chemistry of tissues, so let’s look beyond and have a lot of fun.

This conversation leaves me with a feeling of colors, voices and sounds … that of a team at work.
Thanks Riccardo and good work.


Below is an in-depth link for those who wish to learn more about SISSA and the Science Festival: