Interview with Laura Morgagni, CEO Torino Wireless Foundation

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Posted on February 17, 2016

Laura Morgagni was born in Turin in 1974, where she took her master degree in Management and Industrial Engineering in 1998, at the Politecnico di Torino. In January 2005 she joined Fondazione Torino Wireless, a public-funded non profit organization founded to manage the Piedmont ICT technology district, where she is currently Chief Executive Officer. In 2012 Torino Wireless was appointed as the “Smart Communities Tech” National Cluster leader, currently managing a network of nine Italian regions and more on 100 companies aimed at increasing and enhancing Italy’s research and innovation competences to answer to the social challenges of the modern Smart Cities & Communities. Within the Smart Communities National Cluster’s organization. Laura has the Secretary General role.

What does social innovation mean and what is the approach used inside the smart communities cluster? The Social Innovation issue is strictly linked to the use of ICT technologies to sustain and bring innovative solutions inside issues and social challenges. We interpret it in the widest meaning, not only related to his application in the welfare issues, but also linked to the European definition of the use of technology for the resolution of social challenges. Social Innovation brings us to interact a lot with our territory and it works as a cluster with new initiatives, new enterprises, and also with enterprises still in a start-up form. In the last few months, our action has been mainly focused to connect the ideas of new enterprises lacking an internal ICT component with well-structured ICT companies. Our aim is to supply useful ICT skills to develop an idea of Social Innovation and supply management skills to create a sort of business incubator.

What about the creation of territorial shared value? Is Torino Wireless in contact with other local and international clusters? A strict relationship with research institutes, enterprises, public administrations and citizens, at local, national and international level, is necessary. First of all because it is required by the European programming through the creation of partnerships, and also because today innovation is increasingly made through skills’ use. Torino Wireless, thanks to its external partnerships, has developed skills both in terms of knowledge and in terms of relationships, in the ICT field and in the field of smart communities, innovation, social innovation and also in sectors such as energy, mobility, tourism, etc.: we use this kind of approach both as a method and as an outcome. Therefore our enterprises do not undertake initiatives alone without any collaborations, but they share projects, in order to acquire greater skills and to bring efficiently innovative products onto the market. To this effect, there is a skills’ increase for the territory based on the sharing of paths and projects and the availability of more pertinent products regarding the needs of the market.

What are the direct consequences on the local community ? Since we work as a national cluster in the smart communities issue, we inevitably deal with some other related issues, such as environment sustainability, social inclusion, etc….Every kind of project, even if it’s addressed with a technological key, has as primary objective the resolution of social challenges…that means that the territories we address are involved both in the experimental phase of collecting requirements and in the test phase. In this phase they directly participate to the development and check of the innovations, therefore they are able to direct the future initiatives of the industry and of the public sphere (Regions, Ministry, etc.).

What are the economic and social phenomena that have brought to a rebirth of the city of Turin? The city has certainly known an evolution at the beginning of the 2000s. Torino Wireless was born exactly in those years, with the aim of strengthening the manufacturing sector and the development of other relevant industry sectors, such as technologies and others, in order to provide to the city a competitiveness in the mid-long term. This operation has been started in a context in which the branch of the manufacturing was having strong changes, such as the loss of production capacity. Moreover, it had also a high level of criticality due to the structural crisis of the following years. On the other hand, in the last few years the city has known the loss of some big groups through the relocation of research group, whereas today we can see the return both of the big industry and of other sectors, such as the banking sector or the service industry. The main issue is the enhancement of the competences on which the city has invested in the last years, this concerns industry interests but also citizens lifestyle and highest level research centers. The main point is the opportunity for Turin to became a welcoming, interesting, high-tech place, where enterprises and citizens can pursue their interests completely. In the last few years the investments on smart cities have been remarkable. Our city is doing a lot of projects on European calls and it’s launching some interesting experimentations. For example, in the last months of 2015, a call has been launched for the implementation of a “living lab”: an infrastructure for testing new technologies with the involvement of the end users (citizens, enterprises, etc.) in a public-private partnership.

How is it possible to carry on a successful private/public partnership in the planning and management of innovation processes? The availability of financial resources in the private sector is important but not enough. In fact, the most important thing is the ability of the public administration to provide clear directions addressed to enterprises. This process allows them to develop their business in a potential relevant market. Another important point is the possibility to have an approach related to the use of standards and interoperability. The innovative solutions realized by an enterprises on a specific territory should be applied in different and wider territories. Another issue on which the city of Turin is working on is the public administration’s willingness to revise and simplify administrative procedures, to allow a better and more efficient interaction between private and public sectors.

What are the most important actions taken by the National Technological Cluster dedicated to “Technologies for Smart Communities” in energy and environmental sustainability issues? In this moment we are following the conclusion of one of the 4 projects funded by MIUR in the environmental sustainability issue, regarding the construction of smart urban buildings within smart districts. It is a very big project, with an investment of about 10 millions of Euro and involves big and small enterprises. As a cluster we have defined a roadmap with the priorities regarding an efficient use of resources. The energy efficiency of buildings enables these smart buildings to adapt to environmental features, turning out to be more efficient, decreasing consumption and environmental impact. Also, we are engaged as a cluster in the training of end users, helping them, through a positive interaction, to develop efficient policies about the use of energy resources. Finally an «energy centre» in Turin is under construction: the center won’t be a research institute but a place to experiment new innovative environmental technologies, with the purpose to make available innovative solutions already tested on the territory.



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