United Nations and technological development. Diana Battaggia (UNIDO) talks about ESOF2020 and beyond

25.01.2021 – 07.00 – Not only Covid, contagions and sanitary measures: 2020 may be a year remembered for something else, and the Euroscience Open Forum Trieste, better known to the public as Esof 2020, has given rise to scientific experimentation in its entirety, through the organization of an unusual edition that alternated real and virtual, to better adhere to the measures to combat the pandemic. Among the leading figures who took part in the event we find the UN with UNIDO ITPO Italy: a unique reality that promotes development and, above all, cooperation between companies, institutions and associations, for a future marked by innovation.
To summarize the recently concluded event in Trieste and to look at some of the important projects carried out by UNIDO ITPO Italy, including Industry 4.0 and Innovation Bridge Trieste Dubai 2020, we spoke with the Director Diana Battaggia.

UNIDO ITPO Italy between innovation, development and sustainability. In order to better present your work, would you like to explain what you do and what are the objectives of this reality?

“UNIDO ITPO Italy is the Italian Office for Technology and Investment Promotion of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. Our mission is to support small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries and emerging economies through tailor-made assistance services, fostering industrial collaborations and cooperation between local and Italian companies, associations and institutions with the aim of promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development, in line with the mandate of the Organisation”.

What are the areas on which you work most?

“Our office operates in various countries around the world, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with a particular focus on two macro-sectors that are strategic for local development and in which Italy can boast real excellence: agribusiness and energy and the environment. Sectors in which technological innovation and sustainability play a vital role today more than ever”.

Speaking instead of the relationship between Friuli Venezia Giulia and the United Arab Emirates: what initiatives are you carrying out in synergy with the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region itself?

“The Friuli Venezia Giulia Region is also a promoter of eco-sustainable innovation, scientific research and the application of circular economy models through a solid institutional and legislative base. For this reason, on 8 May 2015 we signed a joint declaration together, which kicked off several bilateral and triangular cooperation activities and projects in support of developing countries and emerging economies, through technical assistance, training, consulting services and transfer of innovative technologies. In 2017, UNIDO also signed a memorandum of understanding with Expo 2020 Dubai.”

What is the objective of this joint work?

“In line with both the mandate of the Organisation and the theme of the expo, the memorandum reflects the shared vision of both parties that the private sector is a primary driver of development for business communities in emerging economies. In this perspective, supporting the innovation of small and medium-sized enterprises through the promotion of investment and the transfer of technology and sectoral skills is therefore crucial to create jobs and stimulate industrial, economic and social growth. The signing of the memorandum has reaffirmed and officially sanctioned the interest of both parties in jointly pursuing these shared objectives”.

Friuli Venezia Giulia yes, but specifically also Trieste. What is Innovation Bridge Trieste Dubai 2020? What is it about, and what is the goal to which you aspire?

“Precisely thanks to the cooperation with the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region and the Arab Emirates, since 2018 we have been successfully carrying out the Innovation Bridge Trieste Dubai 2020 project, funded by the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region and implemented by UNIDO ITPO Italy. This initiative encompasses a wide range of activities aimed at connecting not only two of the most important urban poles of research, innovation and scientific excellence globally, but also two of the largest international events in the field: the EuroScience Open Forum ESOF2020 in Trieste ‘Open Knowledge, Fair Future’ and Expo 2020 Dubai ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.

A true synergy between experts.

“The goal of the Innovation Bridge Trieste Dubai 2020 project is to create a global network of innovators and to foster knowledge exchange at regional, national and international level, in order to identify together innovative solutions that can have a real impact and contribute to sustainable development in different ecosystems and areas of the planet. These innovators include leading experts and representatives of organisations, institutions, industries, companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups, research centres, universities, fablab and many other public and private entities from different countries around the world.

What do you think this important exchange could lead to?

“We are deeply convinced that promoting dialogue, exchange of ideas and collaboration between different realities and countries has a fundamental role in the process of innovation, both locally and globally. Ours is a bottom-up process in the direction of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda promoted by the United Nations, the real guiding and inspiring force behind the activities of our office”.

What did ESOF2020 represent for you, and what did you present on stage at the event?

“As part of the Innovation Bridge Trieste Dubai 2020 project, we participated in the 2020 edition of the EuroScience Open Forum; not only as exhibitors in the digital expo area of the event, thanks to the installation of our special virtual stand, but also through the organisation of the conference ‘Sensing and Shaping Smart Cities in the Post-Covid Era’, which was held in a hybrid format on 3 September during the forum, with the aim of promoting the solutions offered by Industry 4. 0 to reinterpret and redesign urban environments in the aftermath of the Covid-19 epidemic’.

Who were the protagonists of the event?

“The conference was moderated by Sandra Sodini, Director of the International Relations and European Programming Service of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region. Speakers included Carlos Moreno, Scientific Director and Co-Founder of the Entrepreneurship Territory Innovation chair and Associate Professor at the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, who introduced his innovative concept of the ‘City of 15 Minutes’; Giulio Bernetti, Director of the Department of Land, Economy, Environment and Mobility at the Municipality of Trieste, who presented several urban maintenance and development projects for the protection of local environments; and finally Raymond Tavares, Innovation and Digitalization Division Officer at UNIDO, with successful models for optimising the sustainability of the manufacturing sector and urban ecosystems in developing countries”.

What conclusions were reached?

“All speakers highlighted the importance of taking an innovative approach to meet the challenges posed to society and urban spaces by the Covid-19 pandemic, repurposing traditional environments and upgrading existing infrastructure to ensure sustainable urban development. Thanks to the participation of experts and innovators from different countries and backgrounds, the conference organised by UNIDO ITPO Italy at ESOF2020 represented a virtual platform that successfully promoted the exchange of innovative ideas and proposals”.

UNIDO ITPO Italy & Industry 4.0: what are the prospects for a smart and sustainable future?

“The technological and digital progress of the Fourth Industrial Revolution allows today to exponentially improve the management of industrial production, perfect manufacturing, monitor supply chains and reduce waste of resources and energy, thus decreasing the environmental impact while increasing competitiveness and efficiency, in an increasingly smart and eco-sustainable direction. Industry 4.0 has profoundly transformed the future of the world we live in. This revolutionary change brings with it new solutions to meet societal challenges and significant growth opportunities to bridge pre-existing industrial, economic and social gaps, which would enable huge leaps forward in different sectors and countries, especially in developing countries. Innovation, the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and the development of strategic sectoral collaborations are therefore key to understanding and taking advantage of the incredible potential offered by Industry 4.0”.

So we are talking about a future that empowers innovation across the globe?

“By promoting investment and the transfer of innovative technologies, UNIDO ITPO Italy’s numerous projects are precisely aimed at creating synergies between Italy and the target countries of these activities, so that developing countries and emerging economies around the world can also benefit and embark on a development process in line with the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

[Chiara D’Incà]