By Tijana Kovijanic and Bruno Iafelice
Italy is a nation of entrepreneurs. Creativity and artistry throughout the country are the fundamental elements that create new ideas and foster innovation, turning these ideas into products. However, something more is needed; these concepts must find their place in the markets. This concern can be addressed by a culture that combines art, science, and entrepreneurship, which is the basis of the Golinelli Foundation (Italian – Fondazione Golinelli.)
Founded in Bologna in 1988 through the will of the pharmaceutical entrepreneur, scientist, and philanthropist Marino Golinelli, the foundation stands as an example, unique in Italy, of a private organization that deals with training, research, and industrial promotion. Located in a charming former industrial warehouse, the foundation promotes cultural growth, spreads knowledge through multiple projects, and develops tools to help individuals responsibly and practively face their professional and personal futures.
Antonio Danieli, an engineer by education and appreciated manager by training of the third sector, operates the foundation through a long term strategic plan (till 2065) which was provided by its founder and board of directors. Danieli successfully established national and international collaborations and created a large ecosystem around the foundation. This ecosystem contributes to the creation of the next generation of technology entrepreneurs at all levels, from school to high education, research, and technology transfer for new venture creation. The recipients are students in secondary school courses, young adults studying at universities, and young professionals/scientists moving to business.
The Golinelli Foundation organization is shaped around its offer. An in-house company carries out the training while the ‘G-Factor’ incubator creates new ventures. The Golinelli facility also houses the Competence Center – the only one of its kind in Italy – which links 50 companies of the Bologna area to four universities and to the local region as well. Additionally, the foundation hosts a laboratory to promote employment, two cultural centers for Arts and Science, and a Ph.D. School in ‘Data Science’.
Danieli states that staying abreast of rapid scientific and technological development is one of the main goals of the foundation. It must understand and promote emerging technologies, such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. In this area, the foundation’s strongest attribute is fostering the creation of startups and contributing to their seed-stage inside the G-Factor accelerator. Emilia-Romagna, the region where the Golinelli is located, is home to 10% of Italy’s innovative companies, which accounts for around 1,000 of them. Most of them are somehow connected to the Golinelli.
To grow, the Italian system should aim even more toward transforming the creativity of young people into entrepreneurship. “To be an entrepreneur,” says Danieli, “it’s not enough to have a good idea and win some prizes. Being an entrepreneur involves fatigue and courage, together with the ability to understand risks and opportunities.”
Italian creativity must be fostered by a strong focus and commitment. Entrepreneurs of the generation of Marino Golinelli are role models. Marino founded the pharmaceutical company Alfa-Wassermann (now known as Alfasigma after the acquisition of the Italian Sigma-Tau, which was founded at almost the same time by another Italian entrepreneur in Rome.) The big challenge today is to get inspired by those models of the past and face new opportunities created by global markets demanding businesses that can quickly grow to full scale. Access to capital and professional investors has become an invaluable tool and replaces the ‘family-owned’ venture model of the past. Training and Mindset are the keys to success.
Among the international projects in the pipeline for 2020, Golinelli, in September, will host the International Conference on Technology and Entrepreneurship (ICTE), a prominent international symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This partnership was promoted by Antonio Corradi, professor at the University of Bologna, and our team at the Silicon Valley Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship (TVLP).
Michael Condry, past President of IEEE TEMS and former Intel CTO, met with director Danieli last April. Several emerging technologies, from cyber-security to IoT and AI, are part of the conference program. The conference has already received more than 60 papers from authors in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and has lined up recognized international leaders for its Industry Forum. One of the novelties introduced by ICTE 2020 is a workshop entitled ‘from science to new venture,’ which is supported by serial entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from Silicon Valley who are part of the TVLP Institute faculty. It will bring the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset behind the success of companies like Google, Facebook, and Tesla to the ICTE participants.
Bologna has an important role in the development of the Italian industry. Today it stands out as one of the most innovative areas of the country. The Golinelli Foundation has an important and fundamental role in developing this ecosystem on an international scale since the boundaries of innovation are limitless.
[*Note – Based on an interview by Antonio Visini.]
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