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MECHANICS, ELECTRONICS AND ICT: A CENTRE OF INNOVATION BASED IN PIEDMONT.
This is an interesting, versatile sector, with significant margins of growth. It is the world of Italian mechatronics, and MESAP , based in Turin, aims to become its worldwide ambassador. This young enterprise, a hub of mechatronics and advanced production systems, is managed by the city’s industrial union.
According to estimates based on AISTAT data, there are now 36,000 “mechatronic” companies in Italy, providing jobs for 650,000 workers. Three quarters of these businesses are concentrated in the central north: indeed, the most “mechatronic” region is Lombardy, with 30% of the companies and a quarter of the workers. This region is followed by Emilia Romagna, the Veneto and Piedmont, with quotas of around13-15%. In the central and southern part of Italy, the region with the most businesses and workers is Tuscany, with a share of about 5%, followed by Campania and Puglia with quotas of around 3-4%.
There are many different fields involved: mechanics, electronics, information and communication technology (ICT), and the science and technology of automatic control systems. Mauro Zangola, director of the MESAP project, described the context: “Nowadays, it is difficult to find advanced products or production processes where mechatronics is not involved. This is an important source of innovation for all industrial sectors, in that it enables various forms of “intelligence”, heavily distributed amongst a large number of scientific, technological and industrial sectors. The applications may relate to products, both consumer and industrial, or to production processes. In the case of products, mechatronics provides them with such characteristics as adaptability, automation, multi-functionality, usability, reliability, cost reduction, energy efficiency and eco-compatibility. In the case of production processes, on the other hand, mechatronics improves their efficiency, flexibility and versatility”. Zangola went on to explain: “This is, therefore, a vital ingredient in what is commonly described as the “Intelligent Factory” or “Factory of the Future”, which has to combine in a coherent manner a whole range of important characteristics, including competitiveness, operational flexibility, respect for the environment and the individual, and local employment”. He also pointed out that, four years ago: “when the crisis first began to bite, MESAP actually showed consistent growth”. The consortium now has 203 members, of which 192 are businesses and eleven are public or private research centres, including the Polytechnic and the University of Turin.
The Piedmont cluster has also taken on the role of mechatronics ambassador both within Italy and abroad. It is fulfilling its duties with a series of initiatives: signing collaboration agreements with other similar hubs in Italy and abroad, taking part in sector trade fairs, organising B2B events in Italy and abroad, and developing professional communication tools such as videos, an internet site and catalogues.