We are living in an age of exponential technological changes. To initiate an in-depth analysis of these developments and host an exchange of experiences and approaches, the Ambrosetti Club InnoTech community met on 30 May at the Technology Forum 2019. “The age of exponential technological changes” was the title of the annual report and forum, reflecting the fact that technological progress has never been so rapid, and involves not only a number of production sectors but also implies a “paradigm change” for society as a whole. Valerio De Molli, Managing Partner & CEO of The European House – Ambrosetti, outlined the theme in his opening address.
“We have to place our faith in science, technology, research and innovation to imagine a sustainable, cutting-edge and competitive country,” De Molli went on to point out that the Innovation and Technology community, launched in 2011 and now in its eighth year of operations, “aims to support this process, representing a high-level reference point for all the nation’s public and private players that are actively involved in Italy’s innovation ecosystem.” In 2019 InnoTech’s activities involve over 100 enterprises, research institutes and universities and focus on six main trends: sustainability, the circular economy, the low-carbon economy, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, genomics and epigenomics.
These subjects were researched in depth and formed the basis of the four TechForum panels – “Innovation for a Better World”, “Less Artificial, More Intelligence”, “Reinventing Business Through Smart Materials” and “Emerging Ideas for Sustainable Business” – held at the Milan Innovation District, where Enel was among the main partners.
A debate on the technological development currently taking place soon evolved into a broader reflection on humankind’s new condition on Earth, the consequences of growth and innovation for a better world.
Innovation, however, can only drive progress if it is sustainable. In order to communicate our approach, which combines innovation and sustainability, we have coined the term “innovability”. “How can I separate sustainability and innovation? If I’m not sustainable then I’m not being innovative,” explained Ernesto Ciorra, our Group’s Chief Innovability Officer, as he opened the panel on “Innovation for a Better World”. “With an international network of ten innovation hubs, our communities and strategic partnerships, we are building an innovation factory, an open ecosystem where we are working with large companies, start-ups, SMEs, universities and NGOs,” he continued.
Ciorra also spoke about the openinnovability platform launched in 2017, which connects us to 400,000 innovators with whom we exchange ideas and projects – these now number 1,500, drawn from over 100 countries. “Why do they do it? Because they want to help improve the condition of humanity.” The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals were mentioned several times on stage. Ciorra quoted number seven, saying that “Our greatest dream is to provide access to energy for all.”
The impact on society and the environment was the focus of many contributions, including those at the more specifically-targeted panels like those on artificial intelligence, smart cities and 5G, and Big Data, floating the idea that even the age of exponential technological changes has its limits. “Simple, open, programmable and intrinsically secure,” was how Agostino Santoni, CEO of Cisco Italia, described the platforms of the future. “But isn’t it true that these values are also relevant for an organisation, a region or a country?” he concluded, addressing the audience. Sustainable innovation brings together companies and society, encouraging them to walk side-by-side in the same direction.