2022 Alumni Politecnico di Milano Convention: what will the next technological revolution be?

More than 1,000 Politecnico di Milano Alumni gathered at the university to ask themselves the right questions about the future that awaits us

SATURDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2022 - The Politecnico di Milano’s alumni community gathered in the heart of Milan for the 11th edition of the convention, a yearly chance to discuss the questions and challenges posed by the modern world. Over 700 alumni were present in person and 300 followed the live stream of the event, all of whom were looking for an answer to the question that gave rise to the day's reflections: “What now, what is waiting for us?” WATCH THE VIDEO

The question is a fair one even if it is ambitious, maintained the day’s host, Professor Enrico Zio |, President of Alumni Politecnico di Milano and Rector’s Delegate. “If we turn our gaze to the past, to the last 50 years of science, we see space travel for the first time, huge strides in medicine and the incredible, albeit sometimes disastrous, effects of our ability to harness matter and energy; we see the world in a state of constant transformation and changes in the way we live, communicate, travel, work and even play.” Each era has its own challenges and each decade new urgent questions to which we must respond. Science and technology urge us to ask ourselves: What's around the next corner?

Gaela Bernini, Secretary General of Fondazione Bracco, Alberto Mattiello, a business futurist, author and prominent speaker, Stefano Rebattoni, CEO of IBM Italy, Francesca Reich, CEO and General Manager of Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca di Stato, and Antonella Scaglia, CEO of IMQ Group, took to the stage in the Trifoglio building. All are Politecnico di Milano alumni and focus on the pressing challenges of our time: sustainability, inclusion and social impact.

Bernini broke the ice with an invitation to look up: to

“look at space and space exploration, because we need to reconsider the anthropocentrism that is typical of a western, patriarchal model, and to remember the extent to which our choices have an impact today and tomorrow.”

Space, like science, teaches us models for peaceful international relations and productive collaborations between public and private entities. Our differences and local attitudes pale in comparison to the achievement of the greater good.

Gaela Bernini
Gaela Bernini (Credits: Tommaso Chemello)

Un aggancio per Reich, rientrata in Italia dopo lunga esperienza internazionale: “Sono rientrata in Italia dagli Stati Uniti per lavorare per il mio Paese. Sono orgogliosa di essere Alumna del Politecnico, credo che gli Alumni e in particolare gli ingegneri possano avere sempre più impatto sociale, perché per gestire questa complessità abbiamo bisogno di proposte tecniche. Il mio suggerimento a questa community è quello di non sottovalutare il “qui e ora”: pensiamo anche al metaverso, al quantum, al futuro; ma progettiamo infrastrutture che funzionino bene oggi, che siano un asset per l’Italia nei prossimi 10-15 anni. Proteggiamo le nostre eccellenze ed il nostro territorio. Cerchiamo di avere la sensibilità per non rincorrere l’innovazione a tutti i costi e cogliere il “good enough” per implementare un ragionamento strategico ed inclusivo”.  

francesca reich
Francesca Reich (Credits: Tommaso Chemello)

Rebattoni also speaks of Italy:

“We have the technology,” he remarked, “We have the talent. We are training the skills. What we need to work on in Italy is a model of cooperation and collaboration, which is open and inclusive, between institutions, education, the public and private sectors and the world of innovation. Doing business through the use of ‘digital for real’: with the aim of achieving economic and social value for the collective.

Stefano Rebattoni
Stefano Rebattoni (credits: Tommaso Chemello)

Words that look to the future while being rooted in the present. Likewise, those of Mattiello, who opened by paraphrasing Gullit, inviting us “not to watch the ball, that is not to look (only) at innovation: innovation, like the direction of the ball, is the end result of a series of choices that come from afar, which travel a long way before arriving on the market. And which, if they arrive, is because they meet a need: this step is the most important.” We must not forget, however, that innovation continues to fly: for example, in the last month alone, Tesla has presented the prototype of a “mass-produced robot”; Meta has adapted the metaverse for the world of work and training; Midjourney's V4 was released... 

“Text to image. Text to code. Text to text. Text to design. Text to... means that, in all likelihood, we will have managers that are no longer responsible for managing business, but instead manage machines that manage business.”

Alberto Mattiello
Alberto Mattiello (credits: Tommaso Chemello)

Scaglia concluded by touching on a very practical subject: how innovation is received by the public:

“Forms of resistance are often met. Because innovation is a wide concept, it does not only relate to technology but also to processes, the organisation and ultimately, people. For this reason, it is necessary to invest in training and communication: in order that individuals can make decisions that conform to the overall strategy, because decisions are made at all levels, in all roles.”

Antonella Scaglia
Antonella Scaglia (credits: Tommaso Chemello)

A special place in this Convention was dedicated to the outgoing Rector, Professor Ferruccio Resta, who finishes his mandate and passes the baton to the next Rector, Professor Donatella Sciuto. Retracing the key points of the last 6 years, it has been a term characterised by particularly difficult times globally and unforeseen circumstances:

“Indeed, it was not easy to keep things on an even keel, but it was made possible by a clear, shared vision of where we wanted to end up. The mission set out in the Strategic Plan indicated the course, that of becoming a “Leading European University”, keeping one eye on the international stage and being capable of adapting to any changes. The responsibility of those that manage public institutions is to improve them. This has been my commitment, which I have pursued with the help of you all. Your support has been invaluable. Your suggestions have been a great incentive. Your criticism has helped the Politecnico to grow. And you, dearest alumni, have always been here for the Politecnico community and me, and I know that you always will be."

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