Italy is a country of excellence, creativity, and innovative SMEs. This is shown by the Mise data for the second half of 2022, with +1.8% in the number of start-ups registered in the national business register.
Bologna is among the top ten cities that have seen an increase in the opening of new businesses with a high rate of innovation, thus proving to be a good incubator of ideas and committed initiatives.
In this context, the Bologna Business School’s Startup Ecosystem Day is a helpful event, facilitating the meeting between supply and demand, creating new synergies and collaborations, and raising interest in ideas and technologies that are ready for the market. And it could not be otherwise, given the high level of Community participation in this event, which reached its seventh edition on 19 January. An event that is renewed every year, confirming the role of the BBS as a hub for innovative entrepreneurship, able to involve investors, managers, and entrepreneurs in its business network.
With a straightforward structure capable of facilitating effective and productive exchanges, Startup Ecosystem Day combines an ambitious objective in line with the School’s values: to create an ecosystem that enables the promotion of a new vision of the enterprise, a cultural change that cannot disregard the participation of institutions and companies. This is based on the conviction that innovative business models can only develop in a context of solid contamination.
And it is thanks to this well-established model this year’s Startup Ecosystem Day managed to engage and excite 102 startups and over 400 members of the BBS community. Alumni, students, and entrepreneurs animated Villa Guastavillani, the headquarters of Bologna Business School, for an intense afternoon of comparing, discovering, and networking.
Like every year, the event was divided into two key moments. The first part, the Startup Corner, dedicated to the meeting between Startups and the Community, was followed by parallel discussion sessions divided into thematic areas:
Valuable insights were introduced for each of these sectors, enabling participants to broaden their knowledge of complementary disciplines. And if it was the new technology sector that proposed the most surprising innovations, including artificial intelligence and new frontiers of data analysis, the most critical reflections concerned problems and approaches transversal to any company facing the challenge of a new business model. Whether it is cloud, sharing platforms, luxury, or cooking, it is essential that a culture of innovation is developed that dares to broaden its vision. In fact, as Valeria Racemoli, Open Innovation Engagement & Research Manager at InnovEcoS, CRIF’s Global Open Innovation Hub, emphasized, “sometimes companies do not have the knowledge of advanced technology in-house, and this is why collaboration with startups becomes even more important”. Just as it is crucial to network and support each other. A goal highlighted by Felippe Fontanelli, BBS Alumnus and Commercial Director EU in Current Foods, who explained how “one of the main problems we have in Italy, as startups working quietly and alone, is getting capital. Our solution is our mission: to create a Virtuous Revolution Alliance (VIRA), an alliance of startups to help each other“.
At the centre of the debate, across all sectors, was the issue of sustainability. And if “There is a lot of interest in green tech and the potential is high”, as David Stainer, Associate Corporate Finance at Crowe Bompani, stated, it is still difficult to “define what sustainability is and what it means for a company” as Sandra Paola Ricci, BBS Alumna and Product Sustainability Specialist at FAAC, pointed out. “for us”, she explained, “it means starting with the product. We quantify its environmental impact, we map environmentally unfriendly materials, we pay attention to packaging, and we enhance its performance”. If, however, we talk about food, even before the product, it comes the land. “We are not just a bakery: we also have our fields and ovens. What we lack is only the mill, and that is what we want to acquire with our latest crowdfunding,” explained Pasquale Polito, co-founder of Forno Brisa. “Only this model can be sustainable for a startup, where a loaf of bread corresponds directly to 9 square meters of field. Following this model is the most important part for us, to ensure product quality and the sustainability of what we offer, guaranteeing the most important capital: the quality of the land.”
A lot of space was also dedicated to companies and innovations in the automotive sector. Enrico Dente, Director of the Plug and Play Tech Centre and the Motor Valley Accelerator, spoke about what is now a fundamental reality in the area: “The Motor Valley Accelerator is the first Italian startup accelerator program. The program selects between eight and ten startups to present at the Motor Valley Fest every year. This multi-day event brings together the entire city of Modena to showcase the latest innovations in the automotive sector”.
Also emphasizing the importance of innovation in the industry is Michele Poggipolini, CEO of Poggipolini, Founder of @ Sens-In Internet of Fasteners, and President of Confindustria Emilia Giovani. Poggipolini announced the opening of the new Speed Up Lab, which serves as Poggipolini’s innovation platform. “This facility, located in San Lazzaro, will provide 1,000 square metres of space for startups that work with the company. We decided to invest in Forward Factory, an initiative allowing the company to host a startup each year”.
The automotive industry in the Motor Valley region is a tight-knit community dedicated to investing in and promoting encounters between various innovation players in the area. As Carmine America, BBS Alumnus and Member of the Board of Directors of Leonardo, notes, “there are many areas where the startup community can make a significant impact, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing”.
Particularly interesting, in the context of the event, was precisely this intersection of complementary visions and approaches, which opened up new possibilities, as often happens when different disciplines come together. As the Dean of BBS, Max Bergami, explained, “The school has always moved in the direction of interdisciplinarity and the relationship between university and business because it is faithful to its service role to the business community. The word community has an important meaning for us because BBS intends to consolidate that web of creative relationships that give solidity to our economic fabric, remembering that to go far, you need to be together”.