III CINFAI NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Interview of Prof. Antonio Speranza
Rovereto, 14th and 15th October
The 3rd National Conference of CINFAI "Between Research and Economic World" was organized by Demetra Association in Rovereto (Trento) at the MART (Trento and Rovereto’s museum of modern and contemporary art) on October 14th-15th.
It was a unique opportunity to understand and learn how research and business communities interact together, thanks to the contribution of representatives of several consortium and other professional experts in this area.
The leading spokepeople of “Università degli Studi di Trento” and its “Provincia autonoma” were one of the main protagonists during the first academic session. They were also presented different studies of CINFAI (“Consorzio Interuniversitario per la Fisica delle Atmosfere e delle Idrosfere”).
The event highlighted the dynamic reality of CINFAI and its main areas:
- Hydraulic engineering;
- Computer science;
Moreover the second economic session involved different topics, such as ''Research and demand supply". Professor Dino Zardi, Dr. Pietro Vittori and several other stakeholders from business market have contributed to the success of the event, thanks also to the opinions of international representatives such as Professor Franco Einaudi. This success was especially guaranteed by different partners, that are the Universities and the business world. Excellent results were finally brought by the “Consorzio Nazionale Interuniversitario per le Scienze del Mare” which promoted, since last year , 65 research projects and 182 professional contracts.
It was also shown the growing importance of Climate Services, that are increasingly demanded about what it concern meteorological field and renewable energy.
In conclusion, it was presented a summary of the current situation of CINFAI, with an illustration of the ongoing projects and new research infrastructures. It was emphasized the activities of the Consortium, that are strongly marked by the research methodology and also distinguished by the remarkable management, scientific and administrative skills , increased during the development of the various projects.
Working progress: CINFAI has developed two experiments in Sicily, both in agriculture and energy. Then the Consortium is testing a prototype from solar to thermodynamic energy in collaboration with the “Università Kore di Enna”.
Next CINFAI’s workshop in February 2016.
Here an Interview after the Meeting in Rovereto to Professor Speranza, President of CINFAI:
- Professor Speranza, in view of the new meeting to be held in Sicily in December, we would like to ask you some question regarding the meeting held in Rovereto. What does the Scientific and Technical Commettee of CINFAI think of the different relations presented?
I would like to stress an aspect that has been underlined also just after the end of the Meeting, that is the fact that the core asset of our Consortium is moving from Fisics to Engeneering, in particular in the field fo hydraulics, electronics and informatics. In these fields, we have a strong international competence of big datas. The disciplianary extention of our Consortium, that is essentially territorially based, is an aspect that has impressed also the partecipants to the Meeting. I would like also underline the link between tecnological and sociological aspects in the sector we work in. I give you an exaple: we are facing the fact that in the operations conducted by the Civil Protection, in particular those related to the prevention of enivironmental distasters, we need to influence huge portions of national population. In order to achieve this goal, we need to use particular communication tools, but also a good information coordination.
We can use different instruments, including the scientific observation. The activity is extending to new methods of information management. A group of mathematicians coming from the Sapienza University of Rome that is part of our Consortium, is studying since many years with the support of the Russian school the so called “Asyntotic Solutions”.
The asymptotic solutions are mathematical techniques that allow to obtain an approximate solution, but in a fraction of a second. For example, if we have an upstream good monitoring of underwater landslides or underwater earthquakes, we can forsee this type of event and, therefore, provide in a few seconds the news to relevant stakeholders.
One of the theme that has been mostly highlighted by this conference is interdisciplinarity, which we are talking about since long time, but that has never fully realized. In order to implement it in the university system, we need a major revision of the groups of subjects on which professors, students or researchers base their career. It should be revised the “cursus honorum” from a cultural point of view. We have to also consider the extension of working life,a fact that compel people to "recycle" so many times.
- Do you think that among the tools and technologies in the various reports, there are some that could be very strong and appealing to the Italian business market and/or at international level?
Yes, of course. For example, the so called “monitoring tools to be missed”. We are currently working, in the laboratory of CINFAI just opened in Turin, on the construction of new microsensors to be used for monitoring of landslides and avalanches, or in agriculture. These are miniaturized tools to be missed. We are develolping a raindrop-mail, which is a sphere that follows the evolution of the water during a storm. I would say that this type of equipment is something huge and very significant in order to lower costs.
Tools such as big data or large numerical models have always existed and are growing more and more in their importance, but they are not exactly new.
Drones are also things that we already know well. CINFAI has between its infrastructure three drones, one with a wingspan of 8 meters and wings helium, with the ability to withstand more than 20 pounds of payload, then with a very high bearing capacity. Also, it can sit still on a scene for over an hour and monitor what's around.
- The second day of the conference was marked by a more economic and entrepreneurial oriented debate. Considering what has been discussed, what is the situation in Italy with regard to the technological progress in the field of climate services? And how is CINFAI facing the increased demand for services and research in the marketplace?
CINFAI is currently running a specific project on the production of solar energy with external combustion engines and then completely cleaned, since we work on Stirling engines. So we already deal with merely technological segments.
But there is a long tradition of the Italian School that is related to any meteoclimatic assistance. An example: together with our group of Cagliari, I coordinted years ago a study of meteorological and meteoclimatic in Chile, where there is a European observatory in the Andes that studies the deformation of the optics due to sudden drop in temperature at night.
Thanks to the great extension of our Consortium, which has about 250 affiliated researchers, we are able to cover different areas of research, including those related to the preservation of cultural heritage and the world of sport. CINFAI is also present in the areas of renewable energy and climate services. These aread are really growing in our country.
But the Consortium also has a remarkable capacity building in areas that now are not coverd by the academic-scientific sectoer, but that in the future will be very important. For example, Roberta Mantovani, my former student who spoke during the second day in Rovereto and is currently working for Guy Carpenter, explained the importance of developing applications that they are currently developing for insurances. They call it “insurance for insurers”: in the case of hail, insurers ask for forecasts to better manage the insurance practices of their clients.
In any case I would like to come back to the initial theme of mainstreaming: the current culture is crosscutting, but in Italy we are still forced to go for “striped columns”. I mean, it is important to have a strict training, but then we also need a certain intellectual freedom in order to progress.
- Could Italy be considered one of the more competitive actors more at international level with regard to technological innovation related to climate and the environment?
Times have changed, but the general nature of the problems did not change. We have a handicap in this Country. Everything is more complicated: many small obstacles that distract and brake up our Country. This is the image that is perceived abroad.
Let’s consider basic salaries: if we just compare the average salary of a young Italian researcher with that of American or English colleague you can understand what I am talking about. This is the sense of my speech: we should work more at the lower level and remove this kind of institutional obstacles in policy managment more than working on the futuristic tools. We Italians act only when we touch the bottom and the battle becomes unique and identifiable. But nowadays the real enemy is not visible, but it has spread and is linked to a host of factors very difficult to control.
However, our school is good and produces excellent results, but in current circumstances Italian intellectual mortality will always be higher.
- The next workshop of CINFAI will take place in December in Sicily, where you are working with the Kore University of Enna for the development of a project related to renewable energy, the project presented during the conference in Rovereto. What are the other challenges that await CINFAI?
Right now we have already tested at the testing grounds in Enna Kore, the thermodynamic solar system and the two engines I mentioned before. The test is already advantagin the City of Enna: we are using the energy produced for lighting the campus of the University Enna Kore. They are also going to implement the segments that are linked to the economic assessment and utilization of these systems. A large multinational global company, which is part of the group Suez - Gaz de France is also involved in this project.
Regarding the Conference in December, it will be probably moved to January or February, as the data recovered from the trial project of Enna must be reworked and we would like to have time also to do some other measurement. The goal, the target of this conference is of course Sicily, because it is a national operational program, but the technology, like science, is global: respecting the standards that are specific to the location where we act, we will bring in the the project the global nature of the research activities.
- We are in a World increasingly attentive to the problems related to the climate and its changes. As from your experience of member of the Italian Government Representative for negotiations with the UN about climate from 1989 to 1993, what do you think about the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December, concerning the agreement on the measures to be adopted internationally in the field of climate change?
I can say that an extensive work has been conducted at the diplomatic level: it is not easy to bring together and try to reconcile so many representatives of different countries and nationalities. At the technological level, however, some of these participating nations are still "back", most likely due to lack of funds to be invested in research. We will notice the difference between countries.
Moreover, I am convinced that almost all countries taking part in this initiative, once "turned off the lights," will hardly keep the line and respect the commitment.