Six university students studying a range of subjects selected to come up with new solutions to problems relevant to SACMI businesses. The aim: to pool the results and find practical applications in the company. After launching in October, the project - which takes SACMI inside the CERN facility in in Geneva - will end in March 2024
Innovation that spans a diversity of industries, businesses and skills is called ‘open innovation’. By participating in OPER.CBI (the Almacube Challenge-Based Innovation project, the ‘idea incubator’ of the University of Bologna and Confindustria Emilia Area Centro), SACMI is gaining unprecedented in-the-field experience to give body and substance to the ‘open innovation’ concept.
The project involves an engineer, a philosopher, a designer, a business management-admin expert and a specialist in international relations. Six post-grad students in the fourth year of their university studies were selected by Alma Cube and put to the test on SACMI-assigned topics.
“The originality of this approach”, explains Fiorenzo Parrinello, SACMI Corporate Innovation Director, “lies in its broad, interdisciplinary nature. We’re not just looking for specific answers to a specific problem: we’re probing for an enabling technology that, on both a technical and organizational level, might be applicable to different businesses”.
SACMI works in many fields. For example, one common topic (“the problem assigned to our students”, says Parrinello) is the molding/forming of powders. “The aim is to address the matter from both a technical and organizational perspective and identify, in our case, its applicability within the various Business Units (i.e. Tiles, Advanced Materials, Rigid Packaging).”
While multi-disciplinary, the approach is far from arbitrary: problems will be explored via a specific open innovation methodology developed by OPER.CBI; results will be shared in a sequence of steps and weekly work groups will be held at SACMI, involving both the students and the teams responsible for the different projects/businesses. “The goal is to pool the feedback and make it usable for everyone”, observes SACMI's Corporate Innovation Director.
So where are we at? Launched in October, the project will continue for four months, the ‘final milestone’ being reached on February 21st. But that’s not all. Being part of OPER.CBI takes SACMI behind the doors of the CERN facility. In December, the participating students were sent to Geneva (location of the world-famous LHC for investigating impacts between subatomic particles) for their first ‘collision week’ consisting of meetings with scientists from ‘Idea Square’, lessons and co-design work. A second ‘collision week’ at CERN is scheduled for January.
For both weeks, students are flanked by SACMI staff involved in the project. Prospects include the in-depth study - right at the heart of European particle physics - of new AI tools to ‘read’ the instruments; this, concludes Fiorenzo Parrinello, “could lead to immediate tangible advantages”.
All this offers the participating students - all highly motivated, as attendance is extracurricular and voluntary - a close look at the world of industry. It also provides insights into SACMI’s engagement in collaborative innovation with key national and international institutions (which encompasses over 100 active joint projects between SACMI, leading universities, and Italian and foreign research centers). The OPER.CBI initiative also has multiple connections with higher education, as Unibo spin-off Almacube has selected students from the universities of Bologna, Ferrara, Modena and Reggio Emilia.