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The dilemma of those who innovate in Italy today

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The dilemma of those who innovate in Italy today

To celebrate the World Innovation and Creativity Daywhich every year since 2017 has been celebrated on April 21st (right before Earth Day and this should tell us something about the fact that innovation and creativity are needed to save the planet), I went to re-read a list of Italian inventions that changed the world. It’s a nice list, one to be proud of: land banks, newspapers, the battery, the barometer, eyeglasses, the piano, the telephone, the radio and even the fax of which we are so proud that some bureaucrats in certain ministries persist in using it as if there were no emails. Americans usually also include the Jacuzzi in the list, invented by an Italian who emigrated to the United States to treat his son’s rheumatoid arthritis. But without taking anything away from the usefulness of the hydromassage tub, I would rather include it P101or the first personal computer in history, created in 1965 by a small team of Olivetti rebels; il 4004or the first microchip, the result of the genius of Federico Faggin, matured in Silicon Valley in 1971, even if it took several decades for the credit to be recognized; And the first prepaid SIMcalled “ready to Go”, introduced in 1994 by SIP when our telephony knew how to look to the future (that very year it would become Telecom).

It is important to understand where we come from because it helps us better understand who we are and also where we should go. But even more important is not to wallow in the past, to think that history has ended there, that there isn’t much left to do. And instead there is a world to save, a capitalism that needs to change quickly before it devours the planet, there is sustainability that must be expressed in all our actions: and to do so we need innovation and creativity. Is Italy ready to play its part?

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Furthermore, if you look closely, some of those inventions are not exactly success stories for us: Meucci had the telephone invention stolen by Bell because he had no money for the patent; and the young Guglielmo Marconi when in the garden of his house in Bologna he had the clear demonstration that messages could be transmitted in the ether and one day, perhaps (he thought), the voice, went to London, not to Rome, to found his startups; and Olivetti, which after the death of the great Adriano was in the hands of financiers with few scruples and no vision, did not believe in the potential of the personal computer and had it stolen by the Americans. Missed opportunities, for us, and which explain much of the decline we are witnessing.

But have we really changed? If a boy or girl today invented something truly revolutionary, something destined to improve the lives of billions of people, could they make it happen here or would they have to go abroad? Would we be able to recognize these talents, would we be able to encourage them, and could they find the necessary means, i.e. the capital, to make it here? I want to be optimistic: I don’t know. Answering yes to that question isn’t optimism, it’s kidding yourself. I don’t know, it’s the best: and in this doubt there is hope, the hope that in addition to prizes, conferences, festivals, in addition to general statements, white papers and strategies (all genres in which we are objectively masters) in this country it is still possible to invent and create something important.

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In short, the most honest answer is “I don’t know”, but I know that it is worth trying and believing because this generation of teenagers that everyone describes as anxious and insecure, is also the first to have grown up with all the information in the world: about their smartphones not only have the viral videos of TikTok and the reels of Instagram influencers, but they also have the knowledge produced by humanity over centuries. Maybe some of them will invent wonderful things. They will fix the world we have broken. It’s an exciting challenge, as the future always is when instead of just waiting for it you try to build it. Because, as an artist said a few days ago upon receiving an unexpected prize, if the windshield is much larger than the rear-view mirror, it is because what is in front of us is much more important than what is behind us.

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