He has designed software that, thanks to artificial intelligence, automatically takes measurements of any building. The process is technically called “relief” and is one of the most onerous in construction. Thus it solves a problem of time and costs, in the huge market of software for the construction sector. And it has just won the XX edition of the 2022 National Innovation Award (PNI), the largest Italian business plan competition. Distinguishing marks: you are a woman, with a female team. “It’s a great start. Now we’re ready to complete the prototype and scale.”
The winners of the national innovation award
This is Francesca Condorelli, 32 years old, construction engineer, researcher at the University of Bolzano who has been working in the field of surveying for years. Her startup is called Archygram (“in honor of Archigram, with an i, an avant-garde architectural group that was already using technology in the 1960s”). With her is Antonia Magkafosi, Greek, geo-informatics engineer with a degree in Athens. “We have combined skills in artificial intelligence, software development and photogrammetry, that set of techniques that allows you to reconstruct an object in 3D starting from images that give you metric data (shape, dimensions, measurements) in an accurate way”.
Games just over a year ago, they are hoarding prizes. In addition to the 25 thousand euros won at the PNI, the prize where the best startups that have won the regional StartCups (competitions of universities, incubators and research institutions) compete, last year Archygram also ranked first at Switch2Product, the PoliHub program, the incubator of the Milan Polytechnic which aims to transform the results of scientific research into a startup.
“We have thus followed an acceleration path that has given us enormous help: we have managed to validate the product and draw up a business plan”. In December 2021, Francesca and Antonia also won the Flash Art special prize, thanks to the idea of digitizing the cultural heritage with photogrammetry that risks being lost. “We do what is called technology transfer. That is, we apply what we have learned by doing research to a startup. Our software allows us to take measurements of anything in an automated way. You can obtain the same data with the old yardstick or with a laser scanner which, however, costs 100 thousand euros”.
How does it work? “Photos of the building are taken with a telephone, and then uploaded to our platform. In a few hours, the drawing of the building is obtained, containing the measurements and information necessary for the designer. Ours is a niche area, but we are solving a very important problem: surveying is an expensive and time-consuming process. With the PNI grant, we will now develop the deep tech part and focus on architectural classification. This means that our software will be able to automatically recognize some elements of a facade, such as windows”.
From Salerno, Francesca worked at the University of Trento, in Padua and at the Polytechnic of Turin, where she did her doctorate. Today you are an assistant professor in Bolzano and you are setting up the team because Antonia, the Greek partner, will no longer be able to follow the project. “I’ve always wanted to do something of my own. And my dream is that our story inspires other girls too” adds Condorelli. “Not getting knocked down is essential. The truth? We still live in a patriarchal society and this is seen at a European level even in the startup world. I find a lot of distrust in trusting teams made up only of women. I see it in investors, in the juries of awards, in very long calls where, to justify themselves that they won’t give you capital, they tell you that you’re not ready. Look at the European tenders dedicated to female entrepreneurship: they offer “mentoring”, not money. Which is a bit like saying: you are not able to do the entrepreneur, the sooner we teach you. The good news? Things could change soon. And the fact that a woman is the winner of the PNI, both in the ICT category and as overall winner of the Champions Cup, is also a sign in this sense…”.