Four cities together, to serve as the “capital of business culture” in 2022. Four of the most productive and competitive territories in Italy, and why not? in Europe, a “large area” rich in manufacturing and services, to tell industrial stories and talk, with an eye to the future, about the specific dimensions of entrepreneurship, and that is creativity, innovation, competitiveness, growth. Padua and Treviso, Venice and Rovigo have won the competition to become a reference point for business culture this year, thus following an initiative launched a few years ago by Confindustria (the former capitals were Genoa and Alba). The opening ceremony was celebrated on April 5 in a packed Goldoni Theater in Venice. And we are preparing for 80 initiatives in the coming months to discuss, among entrepreneurs, heads of institutions, political and social actors, cultural personalities, how to make people live and develop, even in such difficult times of crisis and geopolitical tensions, the Italian attitude to “do, do good and do good”.
What are we really talking about when we say “business culture”? Of an aspect of more general culture that knows how to connect humanistic and scientific knowledge, projects and products, industry and services, people’s passions and sophisticated technologies in an original way. And again the memory of an old manufacturing wisdom and a long look towards the future of the sustainable economy. A polytechnic culture, to put it in a nutshell. And a story “about Italians who, since the Middle Ages, have been accustomed in the shadow of the bell towers to produce beautiful things that the world likes”, to use once again the ingenious synthesis of Carlo Maria Cipolla, great economic historian.
Culture – as it was said from the stage at the Goldoni Theater in Venice – is, of course, literature, music, painting and sculpture, film and photography, all the many forms of representation (which should establish fruitful relations with the world of business and work). But culture is also science, mathematics, physics, an industrial patent and a chemical formula that changes industry and consumption as well as quality of life (such as polypropylene, with which Giulio Natta won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963). Culture is an employment contract that defines the power and working relationships between the subjects that make a company come alive. Culture, a balance and a budget. Culture, the innovative digital languages in marketing, advertising and communication. Culture, the design that from the 1950s to today, combining beauty with functionality, has been the cornerstone of the industrial development and international competitiveness of Italian companies. The museums and archives gathered in Museimpresa have offered extraordinary testimony to this for twenty years.
And culture, of course, is also the industrial architecture that characterizes the Olivetti factories in Ivrea and Pozzuoli and the Pirelli workplaces, from the skyscraper designed by Gio Ponti to the restructuring of Bicocca designed by Vittorio Gregotti (from the industrial tire and cable factory to the current “knowledge factory” at the university) up to the “beautiful factory” designed by Renzo Piano for the Industrial Center of Settimo Torinese, bright, transparent, safe and sustainable, among four hundred cherry trees. A transformative culture that can be summed up in the synthesis of “industrial humanism”, which today is updated to “digital humanism”. And in the attempts to recompose twentieth – century antinomies between Culture And Civilization“high culture” and everyday technologies and knowledge.
Factories or even better digital neo-factories are exemplary places. In fact, in the present day of knowledge economy and artificial intelligence, it is essential to work on new intellectual syntheses at the crossroads between the diversity of knowledge and skills. Thinking about the interdisciplinary relationship between technology and philosophy, mathematics and sociology, economics and neuroscience, law and mechatronics, precisely to see the complexity that marks our controversial and restless time.
To better understand the importance of polytechnic relationships, just pick up Primo Levi’s “The Periodic Table” and read: “Mendeleev’s Periodic Table, which we painstakingly learned to unravel, was a poem, the highest and most solemn of all poems that was digested in high school “. Levi, an industrial chemist. And at the same time an extraordinary poet, one of the protagonists of twentieth-century literature.
It is precisely all these dimensions of business culture that serve as a possible lever for the growth of our companies in the new competitive context, made much more difficult and more contradictory by the dramatic events we experience, by the consequences of Climate change The Covid-19 pandemic and the recession and now the dramatic development of the war in Ukraine and the crisis of the traditional mechanisms of power and exchange.
The value chains are recomposed in a new dimension of “selective globalization”. New competitive conditions are defined as the phenomena backshoring or reshoring, the return of industrial production structures to the countries of origin, with Europe as a renewed production platform. And it is precisely the EU’s awareness of the need for its own strategic autonomy (in order not to be crushed by the conflicts of the superpowers) that requires a series of policy choices on security, energy and technology that push not only for a change in the paradigm of relationship policies and economic and social development. but also towards new and better choices of industrial and social policy.
Precisely in this context with critical re-reading of the catalog of ideas that has guided the recent seasons of globalization and the digital economy and with writing new maps of knowledge, production and consumption, the Italian business culture (memory and innovation, design and environment). and social sustainability, attention to people and flexible and sophisticated artificial intelligence) have an extraordinary value for the growth of the circular and civilian economy and for relaunching Italy’s role in the European competitive context.
Our companies – it was said in Venice when we talk about the “new industrial triangle” Lombardy-Veneto and Emilia – have significant resources in them: the innovative strength of a dynamic social capital and the depth of a culture shaped by the humanism industry , which has characterized our economic history. And it may well continue to do the future.