“The Foundation is having to face complex innovation challenges. We will succeed with the help of our network”

Andrea Sianesi’s first year as President of Fondazione Politecnico di Milano coincided with the outbreak of the most serious health emergency of the past decades.

In this interview, he considers the past year and tomorrow’s challenges.

One year on from the outbreak of the pandemic, here we are thinking of a different world. You said that crises force us to reflect on our strengths. How would you rate your first year as President of Fondazione Politecnico di Milano?

It has been a year that has totally overturned our lives. In my professional career, I often found myself in new places at critical times, but I never would have dreamt of coming to the Foundation and facing a pandemic. This pandemic has given greater urgency to how we rethink our country and its production and industrial models. What is now clear to us all is that this is not a transitory event, and so we must intercept rather than chase whatever is needed for renewal. And so, alongside the Foundation’s traditional identity, that of supporting Politecnico di Milano’s “third mission”, we intend to become an agile operational tool for the university, capable of responding quickly to radical transformation, because many challenges and projects today demand complex multidisciplinary skills.

What are your flagship projects for 2021, and what are the openings when bringing the expertise at Politecnico di Milano into the equation?

Our strength lies in the network we have built up over the years with companies, institutions and research centres. We are part of the Politecnico world which has launched a project to create a great pro-innovation eco-system, where companies, startups and the university will help to build tomorrow’s Milan, and together we will redevelop two large abandoned gasometers in a Bovisa park.

We are currently the reference point for subsidised financial support for businesses in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are working for EXPO 2021 in Dubai to showcase Politecnico and Lombardy excellence, as a model of research and innovation. We are developing a network of European University Foundations, and we are opening a Foundation in the United States, to leverage on the network of our alumni who live and work on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Our strategy is to drive our international perspective, today more than ever.

And there is more. The Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics is a great opportunity for projects linked to our Lecco Campus. Lastly, we will continue to manage large-scale systematic projects, such as those on increasing the uptake of STEM subjects and on sustainability matters.

What would you demand of the business and institutional world for true change?

A pact of shared and sustainable growth, in a long-term perspective. This demands responsibility and courage.

How would you take stock of your first year, and what consideration would you make?

Over these difficult months, I could rely of a team of people who did their best, as we all did, to manage the most serious health crisis of the past decades. And they made it their priority, reinforcing their team spirit.

Many have been saying for some time that today’s complexity and speed of change have brought up the need for shared responsibility, to let people act more autonomously. My belief is that whoever guides a company or a professional enterprise must, on the one hand, act as an example to their people and, on the other, provide the tools they need to deal with problems as they emerge.

In the Foundation, in parallel with managing our current prospects on a daily basis, we are testing new procedures linked to discussion and exchanging ideas on the topic of work organisation and the wellbeing of our people.