The speech by Metta (IIT) and the solutions of the projects that were awarded the grant from Regione Lombardia
A “discovery” of excellences in the local Research & Innovation sector and a thorough look at “disruptive” technology that can make a difference for our development, being well aware that Research & Innovation can and must play a pivotal role for the recovery of the Italian economy after the Covid emergency.
The on-line event “Call Hub: innovative ideas”, held on 20 July by Regione Lombardia followed these two lines to support scholars looking for new treatments, new ways of producing with less environmental impacts and new forms of mobility. In brief, those who started from tangible needs of citizens to create innovative solutions.
Much like the 33 winners of the Regional “Call Hub Ricerca e Innovazione” grant, funded by Regione Lombardia with 114 million EUR (pooled from POR FESR 2014-2020 resources): the grant will comprise an overall investment of 250 million EUR between public and private resources.
The grant in numbers
The “Call Hub” grant opened in March 2019 and selected the winners at the end of last year. The projects have started and their “innovative ideas” were the main protagonists of the day, in particular during an interactive afternoon session where the winners showcased their projects in the spirit of matching and sharing.
The projects focus on such areas as health, sustainability, advanced manufacturing, smart mobility, connectivity, nutrition and culture. They were carried out by over 200 partners: 45 large companies, 102 MSMEs, 57 research bodies and as many as 80 micro and small companies, including 5 innovative start-ups.
One of the main protagonists was also an Italian and international innovation excellence, namely the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, with the discoveries mentioned by the Scientific Director of the IIT Giorgio Metta guest of the streaming event together with the Vice president of Regione Lombardia, Fabrizio Sala, Nicola Tucci - Strategic Senior Consultant and Evaluator, among other examiners of the 33 projects - and the Regional General Director for Research, Innovation, University, Export and Internationalisation, Roberto Albonetti.
To journalist Tiziana Ferrario, the host of the morning part of the programme, Metta reminded, for instance, the pivotal role of data and computing power, so much so that today pharmaceutical companies can virtually test the potential efficacy of new drugs by using computer simulation to verify their possible effect on the proteins in the target cells. This type of scenario would be very important, for instance, for the biotech industry, which is already a Lombard excellence aiming at strengthening its role on the international stage.
Innovation, though, rests also on innovative materials, such as the one that can absorb oil but not water, as stressed by Metta: a potentially priceless ally to clean rivers and seas from contaminants.
Then there’s genomics: with the cost of full human genome sequencing fallen below one thousand dollars, it is only fair to imagine a future where “the first thing we’ll do upon being admitted in a hospital will clearly be a full mapping of our genes, which will be later used as a starting point for any treatment”.
The “Call Hub” innovations
Health is also among the most explored “ecosystems” in the “Call Hub” grant, with the application of state-of-the-art technologies - e.g. 3D printing to create anatomical models to support surgery and training; or with the development of new protocols sharing and standardising procedures to collect, transport, analyse and process biological samples and clinical data (bio bank), favouring customised prevention and early diagnosis that were made possible by the extraordinary growth of genomics over the past decade.
Among the winning projects there was one of a smart label, capable to adapt its message according to external stimuli and free from a substrate, which today is a non-recyclable waste. And again, the drone transporting drugs under emergency conditions, the so-called super-food, that is, nutritionally enhanced food able to tackle specific health issues, or one of the largest 3D printers in the world.
“In the face of the severe emergency that struck our region - commented the President of the Region Attilio Fontana and the Vice president Fabrizio Sala – research and innovation are two crucial pillars for our future. With “Call Hub” we finance world-class, unique projects bound to change the lives of people while providing an immediate solution to the fast-changing and new needs of citizens”.
“The innovation rate - added Vice president Sala - is extremely high and we estimated that around 35% of these projects will file at least a new patent. Moreover, with this grant we have launched several high-profile collaborations, in Italy and abroad, to increase the attractiveness of the region”. One of the evaluation criteria for the projects was, among others, the duplicability for other international grants, as reminded by Nicola Tucci. The same evaluator highlighted another central element: the innovations set forth by the 33 projects “are really applicable and usable for the benefits of citizens”.
In summary, what matters is that “the era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences”, was a quote from Winston Churchill mentioned in his conclusions by Roberto Albonetti. In this regard, the Public Administration must play its part, on several fronts including digitalisation and smart working, the latter being bound to become part of the Public Administration’s “new normal”, though obviously under different conditions from those imposed by the recent lockdown.
The event numbers testify to a remarkable interest for the topics at hand, also in the “remote” set-up and in spite of it taking place in the middle of summer: almost 1,900 people attended on the Facebook channel of Open Innovation, for a total of over 8,800 visualisations (also on the Facebook channel of Regione Lombardia), over 1,800 views on the YouTube channel of our platform, and 28,700 people reached on FB on 20 July.