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PMI Network – Innovation through Cross-Border Cooperation

The PMI Network project aims at increasing the competitiveness and innovation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through the development of a system designed for cross-border entrepreneurship, which is able to create a network among companies, national bodies, research centres and associations. The project envisages a strong impact on the territories of the municipality of Lecco and Canton Ticino – fostering a long-term cooperation and interaction process between Swiss and Italian based companies and enhancing their strength and expertise. Funded by the Italian-Switzerland Interreg Cooperation Programme for a total amount of 1.5 million Euro, in Italy the project is headed by the Politecnico di Milano – Lecco Campus (in cooperation with the Technology Transfer Office of the University) while, in Switzerland by SUPSI – the professional university recognised by the Swiss Confederation.

In order to encourage the dialogue between companies and the academic/research world, the project has created the Cooperation Framework – an innovative model of technology transfer that is realised through the training of two figures: the coordinators, who interact with the researchers and manage the contents of the platform, and the experts, who operate at the Chamber of Commerce and the professional associations and are the direct interface with the companies. Also, a new digital platform allowing to continuously and mutually interact has been implemented – along with the selection and training of experts and coordinators.

“The area between Canton Ticino and the municipality of Lecco” – Marco Tarabini says, Professor at MeccPolimi and Scientific Coordinator of the project – “has more than 60.000 companies working in key sectors for their economy. PMI Network would like to be a cross fertilisation experiment where technical and scientific expertise of the Politecnico di Milano and SUPSI may become an unprecedented heritage shared with local bodies, in order to guarantee an ongoing dialogue with entrepreneurial system. The project takes advantage of innovative instruments that are able to reach SMEs with a widespread and successful approach. Although it uses state-of-the-art IT channels, the project is based on the central role of persons, on the importance of training and on the need to create different-level networks to stay competitive on markets that are increasingly changing. From one hand, the shared digital platform will allow to interact with the researchers and access to new and updated content and services. From the other hand, there will be plenty of meeting dealing with key topics for districts or supply chains”.

In particular, businesses from cross-border territory belonging to a specific sector will be invited to compare in round-table sessions where different topics related to the vertical dimension of supply chains will be proposed. Events addressed to companies from specific sectors will be planned in order to bring out their complementarity in the production processes with the introduction of new technologies and patents. The aim is to support company’s innovation processes with customised services that are able to increase the competitiveness of the single SMEs and of the entire supply chains.

Form the very start, the programme included frontal meeting as well as virtual ones – in the form of webinars between companies and research centres to further explore the technical and scientific topics in some areas of interest for SMEs. Following the original programme of virtual events on innovation of the PMI Network project, Tech Talks started on March 31st 2020. Curated by Prof. Mario Guagliano at MeccPolimi (Course: Mechanical Design and Machine Construction), the first one dealt with “Additive Manufacturing of metallic materials and its industrial use”.

In order to encourage SMEs to create medium and long-term innovation processes, online meeting will be focused on technologies and state-of-the-art processes with a strong potential impact on the targeted industrial sectors.

Last but not least, an Innovation Check-up service has been developed in cooperation with the research group headed by Prof. Gaetano Cascini at MeccPolimi (Course: Design Method for Industrial Engineering). This aims at understanding all the strength and weaknesses of the companies involved, as well as their placement in the manufacturing contest.After talking to the Innovation Experts and completing a questionnaire, the working groups of the two universities involved will create a summary report by using the KPI derived from literature to identify the most suitable directions to carry out effective innovative actions.
PMI Networks aims at optimising the access of SMEs to support channels for innovation processes, through the development of instruments and paths that make the technology and knowledge transfer of research and industry effective.

PMI Network partners are: Politecnico di Milano – Lecco Campus (lead project), SUPSI – professional university recognised by the Swiss Confederation (lead project), Fondazione Politecnico di Milano, Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Handicraft and Agriculture of Lecco, Confartigianato Imprese Lombardia, Confartigianato Imprese Lecco, A.P.I. - Associazione Piccole e Medie Industrie di Lecco, AITI – Associazione Industrie Ticinesi.