October: Italy Culture Month in New York, celebrating Italian creativity in technology

Alessandro Piol —  October 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

October is Italy Culture Month in New York. This year the Italian Heritage & Culture Committee of New York has chosen the theme “Italian Creativity – 1965 New York World’s Fair / 2015 Expo Milano – Celebrating 50 Years of Science and Technology”. Here is why.

“The first desktop computer in the world”: that is how America welcomed the launching of the new machine “Programma 101 (P 101) in New York in October 1965. A small group of “riotous” young Italian engineers lead by Pier Giorgio Perotto had created the machine at Olivetti, the Italian calculator manufacturer. At that time there were still very few computers; they were big and available to experts only. Instead, P101 could fit on a desktop and could be accessible to a simple employee. Its success was so huge that the US space agency NASA bought it and used it for its first mission to the moon (Apollo 11). Since then, Italy has continued to make significant contributions to the progress of technology. It is great history, with many Italian heroes!

In 1971, the Italian-American Federico Faggin created “Intel 4004″, the first microprocessor in the world. Faggin is one of last century’s greatest inventors , because his ” computer on a chip” sparked the digital revolution which has changed our lives. Today’s microchips are the “brain” in each of the “smart” devices we carry with us. That is why, in 2010, President Obama awarded Faggin the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the top recognition for technology innovators. In 1983, Nerio Alessandri , from Cesena in Emilia Romagna, hand built “Unica” in his garage, then started the wellness empire Technogym, the first company with Internet-embedded fitness machines . These have been used as the official training equipment at the last six Olympic games.

If FIAT , the Italian car manufacturer , was able to acquire Chrysler in 2009, it was in large part thanks to the “Common Rail”, a technology invented by Mario Ricco at the FIAT Research Center in Bari in Apulia , south of Italy, in the 90’s: it is a direct fuel injection system that lowers the emissions of polluting gases and increases performance. Since then it has been adopted by all car makers all over the world. In 2005, in Cornaredo (Milan), Benedetto Vigna, a nuclear physicist, and engineer Bruno Murari invented the accelerometer, the first of the new MEMS ( Micro – Electronic-Mechanical Systems): with the advantage of being tiny and inexpensive , they render any device or appliance “smart”, from a smartphone to a washing machine.

In the same year, in Pisa, scientist Maria Chiara Carrozza headed the creation of a new type of cybernetic prosthesis ” Cyberhand”. In Genoa, scientists Roberto Cingolani and Giorgio Metta invented the baby robot “iCub”.

In Ivrea , Piedmont, Massimo Banzi developed “Arduino”, the open source hardware and software platforms which makers all over the world have been using , thus revolutionizing manufacturing. In 2007, in Versilia , Tuscany, Enrico Dini built “D-Shape”, the first 3D printer to make very large objects, and in Minerbio (Bologna), Marco Astorri and Guy Cicognani produced the first “clean” plastic out of waste and bacteria. In 2014, the “Strati”, the first car printed entirely in 3D, was built in the USA, but had been designed in Italy by Michele Anoe . All the above mentioned Italians have in common innovation and courage, the true ingredients for the best ” Made in Italy”. And the best has yet to come!

Alessandro Piol

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Alessandro Piol is a New York-based venture capitalist and angel investor with over 30 years of experience in the technology industry. Alessandro is a Partner and co-founder of Vedanta Capital. Previously he was a General Partner of Invesco Private Capital where he headed the technology practice. Prior to joining Invesco, Alessandro spent 10 years with AT&T where he co-founded AT&T Ventures, the venture capital arm of AT&T where he focused on early-stage new media investments, as well as Pixel Machines, an AT&T-backed startup in the graphics super-computing business. Alessandro is President of the New York chapter of TiE, a global organization fostering entrepreneurship; he serves on the Entrepreneurial Advisory Board and the Board of Visitors of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering at Columbia University; and he is a mentor, advisor or board member of various private companies. He received an BS and MS in Computer Science from Columbia University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Twitter: @ilmago