SSIP: New Station between research and innovationThe Experimental Station is implementing a series of initiatives and projects in order to support the whole supply chain in this transitional phase and let it become a leading actor within the ‘Industria 4.0’ plan launched by the Government
In February Mr. Edoardo Imperiale arrived as new General Manager of the Experimental Station for Leather Industry and Tanning Materials; the SSIP President Mr. Paolo Gurisatti assured that the Station was ready to run.
And its run has actually started, as confirmed by Mr. Imperiale himself, who talked on the margins of the opening Conference of the second edition of ProssimaPelle, in mid May.
«The Experimental Station is being regenerated», explained Imperiale. «We want the Station, along with its 132-year-old story, to become a national centre of reference for research, development and innovation on behalf of businesses, so they can become more competitive. We have skills, history, know-how, training: all these assets can help the Station become a real national hub, a reliable point of reference on matters such as standardization, certification and sustainability for any interlocutors, whether they are companies, associations or territories».
During his speech, Mr. Imperiale explained that to become like that, the Station is being internally reorganised and its laboratories are being renovated, with the purchase of new, more modern machinery, in order to improve services and, therefore, the support side by side on behalf of companies, both in terms of analysis and respect for timelines. These temporary and operating aspects represent the basics of a development plan consisting of several initiatives.
The Station office in Milan, at Unic, which is exclusively devoted to standardization and specification, has been operating for a few weeks with the aim (among others) of testing the feasibility of agreement also with the big fashion Groups.
As far as training is concerned, the big project Politecnico del Cuoio (Hide Politechnic) is being started, which is addressed to operators, schools, Universities and Associations. «We will start a series of partnerships with the most skilled subjects. We are working with schools, in which we would also like to invest, and perhaps create an experimental tannery 4.0». “4.0” comes up often in SSIP programs, since the (very) next future lies in there: the Ministry for Economic Development itself has launched the Industria 4.0 (Industry 4.0) plan and SSIP wishes to underline how the national tannery supply chain can be the main actor within such plan. Also for this objective, the Station has promoted the Program RaIDto4.0 - Research and Innovation Driving for Leather and Fashion Industry, in order to conceive special strategies for research, innovation and technological development on behalf of the tannery supply chain, which are based on the integration of industry and innovation. This program consists of two distinct but complementary projects - “FabInLeather” and “ScoPro” – the relevant Expression of Interest having been published on the Station website. The first project, FabInLeather, aims at outlining, thanks to the close cooperation provided by businesses, an analysis of the need for innovation and of the offer of innovation technologies which can be applied to the tannery supply chain. ScoPro, instead, intends to foster the emergence of really innovative research programs for the tannery industry which can be gathered in a “Databank of Research Programs”, from which SSIP can select projects to carry out through special cooperation agreements.
«We are talking about two different, though integrated projects, about two different plans of a same program», confirms Imperiale. «FabinLeather is addressed to businesses belonging to the tannery supply chain, which can so express their needs in terms of innovation and, at the same time, which can also bring to our attention innovation proposals and projects. It is also addressed to tannery “destination” businesses, that is automotive, fashion, furniture, leather, etc. industries, these being able to give us important suggestions and propose improvement actions in terms of development and innovation. It is also eventually addressed to all operators, who can be trainers, consultants, associations, etc.: this proposal starts with the basics. We want our new development plan to start with the basics because we are willing to become a real generator of opportunities in terms of research, development, innovation and training for companies.
What is the aim of ScoPro, instead?
ScoPro, instead, is addressed to Research Centres and Universities: these can submit us their research projects, especially those relating to applied research and pre-competition research, and we will finance them directly after choosing those which we find more industry-consistent. There is obviously a public procedure to follow and everything will be done with great transparency. We have identified our officers responsible for the various operations, the so-called RUP (Responsabile Unico di Procedimento, Procedure Sole Responsible), as required for public procedures.
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We are willing to finance research first of all because we ourselves strongly believe in it: we must get rid of self-reference, which is almost always aimed at publication, in order to be open to investigation, which is actually an ever-changing world. We don’t want to remain an “aseptic subject”, on the contrary, we must become integrated in the whole field of research and innovation and become an actor capable of supporting and, where possible, funding.
What are the plan implementation times?
The two mentioned instruments will expire in 2018. We are talking about a huge plan that needs time. Starting from September we would like to examine initiatives; 2018 will be the start-up year, whereas the plan should come into force starting from 2019.
Is it correct, therefore, to say that SSIP plays an “intermediary” role and that the performers of such projects are tanneries or the various subjects of the supply chain?
Yes, absolutely. SSIP will become, on the one hand, a subject accompanying and supporting businesses in all the aspects of analysis and certification, standardization and, obviously, research and innovation. On the other hand, it must also play an aggregator role, thus becoming the point of reference where everything flows into. Therefore, it will be a vector through which we, too, can acquire research and technological skills from subjects that we will identify using such instruments.
Isn’t there a risk that the tanner, who is already overwhelmed by the labour costs, by the uncertain economic environment, by the alternation of orders, sees this as a further effort to make instead of a resource?
We should not forget that this an absolute innovative project in Italy, and that it requires a different cultural approach. My aim is that the Experimental Station can reach, in a time not too distant – I hope already in 2018 - the status of a Temporary Management to put at the disposal of tanneries, also at zero costs (at least at the beginning). And such Temporary Manager will be the technologist, the researcher, the expert presiding and governing the innovation processes within the small business. We want to relieve businesses from further work. There will be a new challenge for businesses, but we are ready to cooperate with them side by side, also offering a tutoring activity, in order to be as consistent as possible with the requirements of said two instruments.